Sanderson, Texas, where the trails are dusty and the tales are comforting, seems like an awfully nice place to call home.
There’s something about Sanderson–the city at the center of Robinson’s new novel–that makes the reader want to settle in and stay a while. The book opens with Molly Brown, a beautiful young woman who limps into town on her last dime, alone and disconsolate. But no sooner does she sit down at the counter of the Turner Hotel CafÃ©–the gravitational center of the town and of the novel–than Lou Smith, the restaurant manager, offers her food, lodging and a job. It’s clear from the start that Molly would be silly to leave, given Sanderson’s apparent charms. The entire novel is as welcoming as Lou; the reader’s encouraged to stretch out and soak up the hot Texas sun. However, to call Robinson’s new book a novel is not quite correct. Trails is actually a collection of connected vignettes–short, evocative, day-in-the-life portraits of the people who call Sanderson home, each one more artfully rendered than the last. This decentralized structure brings out the best in Robinson; he could be an equally effective short story writer. Each tale functions as a stand-alone, but in piecing them together, he does nothing less than invent a world–or at least a fascinating little community on the plain. The story of Sanderson is the story of its residents, and the author treats each of them–many who are based on real people–with kindness. Each character is obviously dear to him. Like a doting father who knows all of his kids’ quirks, Robinson uses his shrewd eye for detail to describe his characters’ tics and idiosyncrasies, fashioning realistic figures that seem ready to jump off the page.
A loving portrait of a small Texas town.