THE LATE CHILD
Overlong seriocomic sequel to Pulitizer-winning McMurtry's The Desert Rose (1983). Eight years have passed, and Harmony is still living in Las Vegas, working in a recycling plant, and raising her five-year-old son Eddie alone. As the story opens, this heart-of-gold ex-showgirl is getting the news that her daughter, the 21-year-old Pepper, has just died of AIDS in New York City. Left alone with her grief, Harmony calls her sisters, Neddie and Pat, in her hometown of Tarwater, Oklahoma -- both immediately hop on a plane and begin to take control of her life, first by convincing her to bring Eddie and move back to Tarwarter with them. Thus begins the road adventure, as the sisters and Harmony's young son head to the Grand Canyon, the Hopi Mesas (where Eddie finds Iggy, the pup), Canyon de Chelley (where the trailer ends up in the canyon), and Albuquerque, where they ditch the car and fly to Manhattan to discover what Pepper's life was like. There, they meet cab-driver con men, prostitutes, and pimps. But because bright, adorable Eddie insists that everyone like one another and get along, they do. Eventually, they also meet Laurie, Pepper's sweet, heartbroken lover, who follows Harmony and the gang back to Tarwater, but not before Iggy jumps off the Statue of Liberty, ends up (with Eddie) on the Letterman show, and takes a helicopter ride with the President. Harmony's reunion with her dad, Sty, back in Tarwater will provide the healing that she needs -- not to mention a grandfather for Eddie. As ever, McMurtry has a knack for warm, affectionate characters, flaky but goodhearted. Even his villains are never all bad. Still, this candy-coated-seeming road novel, even as it tackles themes of grief and healing, grows monotonous.