THE END OF VANDALISM

Drury's first novel, set in Grouse County, a network of small towns in the Midwest, is a poker-faced look at American folkways in a world that is precarious and perverse. Grouse County does not have cable, and it will never, ancient rumors to the contrary, play host to a farm movie starring Sally Field. On the other hand it does have Big Days, town meetings, and periodic elections for Sheriff. Instead of a plot, Drury provides a panoramic view of the county, a host of minor characters, and three major ones: Tiny Darling, an unconvicted thief; his wife, Louise, and Sheriff Dan Norman. While Tiny is an instantly recognizable lowlife, Drury constructs Dan and Louise almost stealthily, a detail here, a trait there. Early on Louise tires of her seven-year marriage to Tiny and throws him out. In short order, she and Dan are dating, sleeping together, living together, married. Dan is a laid-back sheriff, but he has no experience of domesticity. Bothered by insomnia, he sees a therapist who finds him unreadable, as does Louise, though she continues to love him. The crisis comes when Louise almost dies after her baby is stillborn. The irony (unforced) is that earlier Sheriff Dan had been led to an abandoned baby in a supermarket. The unwanted baby lives; the wanted baby dies. Shattered, Louise retreats to her aunt's house in Minnesota while Dan runs for re-election. A poor politician, he is almost defeated by a rich farmer's son and dirty tricks engineered by Tiny. Louise returns home. Slow fade. There's an awful lot here to like: the dialogue, the sly humor, the feather-light touch, the clean drive of the prose. All Drury needs is a plot for his work to really take off.

Pub Date: March 29, 1994

ISBN: 0-395-62151-8

Page Count: 321

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1994

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EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES

A lovelorn winemaker’s daughter seeks the right way to crush sour grapes into a winning blend.

Days before her wedding, Georgia’s relationship breaks down. But when she tries to escape home to wine country, she discovers nearly as many fissures in her family.

In the navel-gazing microcosm of California, worlds don’t get much more different than Los Angeles and Sonoma: the former rich in artificial vice, the latter in cultivated flavor. Dave, a seasoned writer of literary romance (The First Husband, 2011, etc.), explores this divide through the eyes of Georgia Ford, a 30-year-old LA–based corporate lawyer on the cusp of marrying her dream guy, Ben. He’s a devastating British architect, of course—rom-coms breed such fellows on a Burberry island somewhere—and his long-ago fling with an equally devastating movie star resulted in a 4-year-old daughter he's just learned about. Cue the devastation for Georgia, who flees up the coast in wedding garb after spying the seemingly happy family walk by during her final dress fitting. Destination: The Last Straw, the idyllic family vineyard in Sebastopol where she grew up with handsome twin brothers and crazy-in-love parents. Unfortunately, the clarity Georgia hopes to find there is quickly marred by everyone else’s problems. Her parents’ marriage is faltering; her feisty brothers are warring over a woman; and, in the deepest cut of all, her dad plans to sell the vineyard that’s always anchored them. As Georgia weighs her ambivalence about Ben, she struggles to understand the parade of relationships blooming and busting around her. Through a series of flashbacks that range from canny to cloying, we learn how the Ford family has reached this collective crisis point. Resolutions arrive slowly and often unexpectedly for each of them, giving this satisfying novel legs.

A lovelorn winemaker’s daughter seeks the right way to crush sour grapes into a winning blend.

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-8925-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

Categories:

LONESOME DOVE

A NOVEL (SIMON & SCHUSTER CLASSICS)

This large, stately, and intensely powerful new novel by the author of Terms of Endearment and The Last Picture Show is constructed around a cattle drive—an epic journey from dry, hard-drinking south Texas, where a band of retired Texas Rangers has been living idly, to the last outpost and the last days of the old, unsettled West in rough Montana. The time is the 1880s. The characters are larger than life and shimmer: Captain Woodrow Call, who leads the drive, is the American type of an unrelentingly righteous man whose values are puritanical and pioneering and whose orders, which his men inevitably follow, lead, toward the end, to their deaths; talkative Gus McCrae, Call's best friend, learned, lenient, almost magically skilled in a crisis, who is one of those who dies; Newt, the unacknowledged 17-year-old son of Captain Call's one period of self-indulgence and the inheritor of what will become a new and kinder West; and whores, drivers, misplaced sheriffs and scattered settlers, all of whom are drawn sharply, engagingly, movingly. As the rag-tag band drives the cattle 3,000 miles northward, only Call fails to learn that his quest to conquer more new territories in the West is futile—it's a quest that perishes as men are killed by natural menaces that soon will be tamed and by half-starved renegades who soon will die at the hands of those less heroic than themselves. McMurtry shows that it is a quest misplaced in history, in a landscape that is bare of buffalo but still mythic; and it is only one of McMurtry's major accomplishments that he does it without forfeiting a grain of the characters' sympathetic power or of the book's considerable suspense. This is a masterly novel. It will appeal to all lovers of fiction of the first order.

Pub Date: June 1, 1985

ISBN: 068487122X

Page Count: 872

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1985

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