WESTERN SWING by Tim Sandlin


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Sandlin's baggy, woebegone second novel has a smidgen of plot, two (alternating) narrators, and three major preoccupations: country music, sex, and unhappy families. The narrators (and leads) are 35-year-old writer Loren Paul and 38-year-old Lana Sue, sometime country singer and Loren's eventual wife; their intertwined stories span 20 years (1964-84) and three states. Loren hates his Texas childhood (no respect from his low-rent family) but during college in Colorado was salvaged by a Good Woman called Ann, a fugitive from a crazy, violent father. Loren moves in with Ann and her baby Buggie (the lather is out of the picture) to enjoy several years of domestic peace until Buggie disappears, just like that, and guilt-ridden Ann commits suicide. Meanwhile, Lana Sue has been living more adventurously: a brief teen-age escape from her awful family, two periods on the road as a country singer, two marriages, two kids, and men, men, men. Eighteen years after their first accidental meeting in Houston, Loren and Lana Sue have a second accidental meeting in Denver; this time they connect and everything goes fine until Loren (a death-and-mysticism freak) climbs a Wyoming mountain to ask God about the Buggie thing (this is the plot-smidgen). He is stalked and almost killed by Ann's crazy father before being rescued by Lana Sue, who has decided, following a sobering brush with a fourth awful family, that her marriage to freaky Loren is workable after all. As implausible as Sandlin's debut novel, Sex and Sunsets (1987), but without that work's redeeming comic touches.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1988
Publisher: Henry Holt