Life on a Texas ranch, portrayed by Flynn with hard-earned western wit and matchless skill.
Back in 1910, Claris McCloud gets his ranch together but will soon need a son to help keep the place fit. “Claris considered going to Fort Worth and marrying a whore. They had a work ethic and when you married one you knew what you were getting.” Instead, he weds skittish virgin Celestine, 23, “scant and quiet as a whisper in a wind storm,” whom he must rape to get pregnant. She bears Clarista: all rawhide, fast to the saddle, born to herd and rope. When Claris dies, Rista takes over the ranch and finds herself courted by two men. She passes over rakish poet/newspaper editor Stoddard to marry feisty lawman Odis, who gives up his badge and becomes a fair ranch-hand. But daughter Cassie is too hotheaded to stick around the ranch after she gets pregnant; her mind tossing wildly with Hollywood dreams, Cassie takes off. Who fathered baby Chance? Well, even grown-up Chance wonders when he gets an anonymous call telling him that Grandmother Rista is dying and needs his help. Raised by Cassie to be a bow-tie gentleman, his whole childhood spent in front of the tube while Mom ran around, Chance is now a vastly smart, materialistic TV station manager in Florida who’s never ridden a horse in his life. He’s just buried Cassie when he has to go to the ranch and perhaps warehouse his grandmother in a nursing home. Rista has had her share of tragedy since her daughter took off; she shot Odin and later shot the man who may have fathered Cassie’s child. All grizzle and gristle, the old lady deals her grandson some life-lessons in blood and entrails unlike anything he’s seen on TV.
Prose throughout smelling of tallow and coal oil. Flynn (Living with Hyenas, 1995) deserves a prize.