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A southern-style Beat goes on the road to find her sister, a life better than the one she’s got in down-home Kentucky, and’she hopes—Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan. Married to dull if well-intentioned TV repairman Clarence Tolliver, 27-year-old Josie finds life in mid-1970s Pick, Kentucky (also the setting of Witt’s Slow Dancing on Dinosaur Bones, 1995), to be terminally boring. Her widower dad, Brewster Clay, lives there too, as well as a cast of the usual larger-than-life characters condemned to inhabit novels set south of the Mason-Dixon line. Josie, a great reader and declaimer of Shakespeare, wants to go to Sage, Arizona, where her elder sister, Cheyenne, disappeared 16 years before. Cheyenne may even be dead’she had a heart condition that needed surgery—but Josie, determined to escape Pick, persuades Clarence to come with her to find out for sure. Our heroine, who has been reading a good deal of Castaneda, is also hoping for some enlightening encounters in the desert. As it turns out, the two don’t find Cheyenne in Arizona, but, while working at a bar, Josie has an affair with Johnny, a local rancher trapped in an unhappy marriage. Then a phone call to Brewster from a San Diego doctor suggests that Cheyenne may be in that city, so Josie heads there with a reluctant Clarence in tow. She studies drama, has another affair, this time with her instructor, and eventually does find Cheyenne, just as mean and self-destructive as ever. Meanwhile, Clarence meets Sally, who’s everything Josie is not, and the Tollivers” marriage falls apart—which seems a good thing for both of them. Now Clarence can marry a woman who loves him just the way he is, and Josie can go back to Arizona, where she gets work as an actress, leads a far more interesting life, and discovers her own true love. A tiresomely quirky second novel. Despite all the traveling, the story doesn’t go far.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-84152-5
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1999