Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE GATES OF THE ALAMO by Stephen Harrigan

THE GATES OF THE ALAMO

By Stephen Harrigan

Pub Date: March 6th, 2000
ISBN: 0-679-44717-2
Publisher: Knopf

A full-dress fictionalization of the historic siege remembered as "the Texas holy of holies," from the veteran Texas Monthly contributor and novelist (Jacob's Well, 1984, etc.).

Harrigan's obviously fully researched reconstruction of the events of 1836, when a band of "Texians" determined to free "their" territory from Mexican control succumbed after a 13-day ordeal to the much larger Mexican Army, skillfully mingles together well-known historical figures with vividly realized fictional characters. Prominent among the latter are Terrell Mott, a 91-year-old survivor honored at ceremonies marking the siege's 75th anniversary in 1911, in the novel's moving prologue and epilogue; Terrell's mother, widowed Mary Mott, who courageously enters the very epicenter of the struggle, to be reconciled, and, if necessary, die with her loved ones; and Edmund McGowan, an itinerant botanist (hoping to complete his authoritative Flora Texana) for whom the Texas war of liberation becomes a transformative challenge to his lifelong suppression of his emotions and belief "in the governing majesty of the mind." Hot-blooded William Travis, infamous "knife-fighter" Jim Bowie, Congressman David Crockett from Tennessee, and their supposed confederate Sam Houston (whose troops arrive too late to avert the slaughter) are all memorably delineated, as are Mexico's "Presidente" General Santa Anna and two of his officers (both fictional) who grow to both maturity and disillusionment during the long campaign. Harrigan builds slowly and surely toward the story’s inevitable, impressive climax, examining in thrilling detail his several protagonists' quests for both freedom and fulfillment, foreshadowing deftly (for example, in a startling description of a tame parrot being swept up into the sky by a marauding hawk), and making us care deeply about the buttoned-up, self-despising Edmund and the heroic, very human woman who he knows in his heart is part of him.

An original work of high distinction indeed: as fine a historical novel as any within recent memory, and far and away Harrigan's best book yet. (First printing of 100,000; Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection/Quality Paperback Book Club selection)