In an Author's Note at the end of High Plains Tango
, Robert Jaems Waller says: "Though this book stands by itself, it is a continuation of two of my other books: The Bridges of Madison County
and, especially, A Thousand Country Roads
... A Thousand Country Roads
details Carlisle McMillan's search for his father, Robert Kincaid, who played a central role in The Bridges of Madison County
Waller just can't, try as he might, get back to Madison County. Even though there are those who love to trash Bridges as sentimental twaddle, there are legions more who celebrate it as a romantic tour de force. Whichever side you favor, let it be said that the book delivers exactly what it promises. Not quite true of this book. What promises to be a romance of Waller-like proportions turns into an environmental crusade which turns down the heat, and then switches back to romance and do-goodery.
Carlisle McMillan, Stanford graduate (which comes in handy later on) and wanderer, floats into the town of Salamander, South Dakota, one afternoon and decides to stay. It is far enough away from anything that smacks of "city" to be appealing. He buys property with a derelict house on it and rebuilds it in honor of his mentor, Cody Marx. Cody taught him everything he knows about fine carpentry, and about doing it right, even when it doesn't show. Cody's Way is a metaphor for house building and character building, and Carlisle has learned his lessons well.
There are two women in this tale: Gally Devereaux, married to a big jerk who has the good grace to die, and Susanna Benteen, the auburn-haired beauty who dances naked in the firelight. Does anybody but Waller know women like this? Things are perking along just fine until the long arm of Progress reaches all the way to Salamander, deciding to build a highway, and spoils everything.
There is a lyrical last chapter reminiscent of some of the best-remembered of Waller's prose, and a toast offered by Carlisle's mother, Wynn: "To ancient evenings and distant music." Sound familiar? --Valerie Ryan
From Publishers Weekly
A mysterious loner tries to find love and peace of mind in rural South Dakota in Waller's latest, a tepid, unfocused novel that begins when a handsome, independent drifter, Carlisle McMillan, arrives in the tiny town of Salamander. McMillan is the son of Bridges of Madison County
photographer Robert Kincaid; he previously appeared in A Thousand Country Roads,
in search of his father. The California native and master carpenter with a Stanford degree finds his interest piqued by Salamander, and he buys an abandoned house just outside town, making plans to rebuild it. But trouble comes calling when a corrupt developer decides to seize McMillan's house as part of a potentially lucrative highway project; McMillan fights back with a well-organized battle plan that gets him in trouble with most of the town's residents. Romance is in the offing, too, of course: McMillan takes up with comely Gally Deveraux shortly after her brutish husband dies, but the real object of his desire is beautiful Susanna Benteen, a wild, mysterious woman who keeps company with the local Sioux as they observe McMillan in his fight against the highway project. Waller offers a bit more substance here than in other post-Bridges
offerings, but he's still hamstrung by cliché. The result is yet another half-baked attempt to recapture the magic of Madison County. Agent, David Vigliano.(June)
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