The hardscrabble Allan family has faced nearly every threat their rough, self-sufficient pioneer life in Big Sur country has to offer, but it’s mankind that finally presents a challenge the family may not be able to overcome.
As in all the novels of Ross’ trilogy, Big Sur country is an entity unto itself. The land shaped all three generations of the Allans; it’s what defines them. But now the government is blasting a road through the pristine wild country Zande Allan loves, and the stubborn family patriarch is determined to stop it. His grandson and namesake, Zan, sees the road differently—it’s progress and opportunity, and he wants to be a part of its creation. When Zan defies his headstrong grandfather, Zande cuts him out of the family, and Zan begins working on the road crew, blasting away the land he’s always loved to allow more people to discover it. But after his irresponsible cousin, Tilli, kills the man who spurned her, Zan realizes he has to save the family’s reputation by taking the blame for the murder, which lands him in prison. Seven years later, he returns to a world that has moved on without him and makes no place for an ex-con—and the woman he loves is out of his reach because of it. Like all the Allans in Ross’ trilogy, Zan is a compelling character: strong-minded, honorable, hardworking. And like all the Allans, it’s his own unbending adherence to his core values that contributes to his undoing. In Zan’s case, it’s family pride that convinces him to save the honor of a cousin who doesn’t deserve his sacrifice; and later, stubborn pride—and fear—keep him from admitting his love for Lara Ramirez, the girl raised by his beloved grandmother. Co-written by Koeppel 50 years after Ross’ death, this installment doesn’t feel quite as smooth or authentic as the other two titles in the series. But like the others, it’s a fascinating character study, a realistic portrait of one of America’s final frontiers and a book that’s hard to put down.
Not the best installment of the impressive trilogy, but an intriguing conclusion nonetheless.