Email this review


Returning to the themes of her 1993 Strange Angels—with a detour through the badlands of Russell Banks—Agee offers a rambling saga that includes an abuse-riddled Nebraska family, a hideous crime, a slow path to redemption, and the love of a good woman. Our first sight of hellion Ty Bonte is in court, where he’s being fined for another wild night gone wrong. Ty is troubled but basically good: he just has a lot of monkeys on his back. His father works him like a slave on their Sandhills ranch; his mother, having moved back to town long ago and found religion, treats him like a stranger; he still blames himself for his younger brother’s death in a tractor accident; and then there’s Harney Rivers, the banker’s son and Ty’s ever-ready partner in transgression. Harney is beyond wild, and the extent of his savagery soon surfaces when he and Ty get drunk and decide to get their kicks from a pair of drunken hitchhiking Indians. Flash forward more than 20 years: Ty is living in Kansas with his own spread, trading horses and making ends meet. One day he picks up a thoroughbred he’s not supposed to have, taking it and the woman who misled him, by name Dakota, back to his place. Ty and Dakota begin to fall in love, but trouble in the form of Harney, older but no less savage, follows; he kills the horse for the insurance and runs Ty through with a pitchfork. Barely recovering, Ty decides it’s time to settle with all that’s unresolved in his past. He heads back with Dakota—who’s decided to stand by her man—to the Sandhills, where he finds his father dying; a warrant still outstanding for his own arrest after the night of beating the Indians; and Harney waiting for him. Riveting scenes of ranch life and the grimly glorious Nebraska countryside can’t overcome a plot both bloated and sluggish, with a fairy-tale end painful to read.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-670-88233-X
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1999


FictionTHE BONES OF PARADISE by Jonis Agee
by Jonis Agee
FictionTHE RIVER WIFE by Jonis Agee
by Jonis Agee
FictionA .38 SPECIAL AND A BROKEN HEART by Jonis Agee
by Jonis Agee