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High Plains Tango: A Novel Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books; First Edition edition (June 28, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307209946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307209948
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #765,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

I finished this book in 3 days, I read as my 5 month old daughter napped, and I had a hard time putting it down.
Capricious Momma
Those books I could tolerate enough to read in their entirety, even if parts were a little "out-there" in the realm of reality.
Katy Wayne
I found this novel very unsatisfying, disjointed, and left me wondering at times what character was going to wander in next.
Sally Fallen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The book is wonderful. There will, of course, be plenty of people who will say exactly what they've said about all of the author's work. That it's sentimental and romantic and fanciful, as if those were bad words or bad things. (If you think they are, then simply don't read the book. Choose something more cynical. There's plenty of it out there.) This book is about how individual lives, though seemingly so unconnected, intertwine and influence each other. It's about finding out who you are, and what your life is about. It's a story of discovering what really matters and deciding what's worth fighting for. It's both a sad commentary on the state of the country and the level at which, sadly it seems, most people live their lives. At the same time it's a reminder that there is much to be thankful for and much to be hopeful about. Waller has a way of writing characters so that they become not just characters, but people, and of turning their everyday lives from the simply mundane into the mythical. Sentimental or not, I'm so glad he still thinks it's worth doing, and doing so well.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Corinne H. Smith VINE VOICE on August 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Forget all the publicity about this title being a spinoff of "The Bridges of Madison County." Its tether to that book is quite thin, strung by the mere fact that Carlisle McMillan is the son of Robert Kincaid, photographer.

Carlisle McMillan is the kind of character who appeals to both male and female readers. He's masculine, he's sexy without being overtly so, and he does great work as a carpenter. This California boy somehow lands in the rural central U.S. plains and decides he likes the place. The plot follows a typical big-city-boy-settles-down-in-small-town-and-falls-in-love-with-hometown-girl format until the news gets out that an unnecessary interstate highway is planned to plow through Carlisle's new digs. Suddenly a casual romance turns into an environmental mission in which the bad guys wear suits and drive vehicles with official logos on the doors. Yes, Carlisle likes tango music and Susanna likes to do freeform naked gyrations on Wolf Butte, but it's the suits who take temporary center stage as they tapdance their way around ethical behavior. Once that battle is over, Life resumes, albeit just a bit differently.

Waller's descriptions are among the most vivid in literature today. But the book is not without its difficulties. The story unravels through several varying and overlapping viewpoints that might confuse the reader. The identity of the occasional first-person reporter is never revealed, which was personally frustrating to me. And though a heavy environmental message is thrust into the middle of the book, that segment winds up without a clear and satisfying conclusion. Nevertheless: decorated with a few Native American stories and mystical speculations, "High Plains Tango" is a decent read that can stand on its own merit.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jenny Epperson on August 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading HIGH PLAINS TANGO an hour ago, and I'm still swirling in all the imagery and sensuousness of the South Dakota setting and characters. Waller once again has helped me view my life in a much bigger perspective than I did before reading his book. For awhile at least, I will exist in a world of wild tangos, high plains, and all the attendant romance they encompass. For awhile, I can forget the heartbreaking truth that "the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation." Let's hope it will not be long before Waller offers another of his romantic, hauntingly beautiful, soul-touching novels.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David G. Sutliff on August 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
this is a well told tale about some interesting people in fairly ordinary life. it is a great read and not as sentimental as his other works. i liked the setting, the characters, and the pace of the book. the story wanders a bit at the end, but still ends well. i think he is one of the best writers today for vivid prose about the place or the scene, and often chooses just the right word or phrase to bring us there. i didn't care for 'bridges', but gave this a chance, and it was well worth the time and money. and lastly, it isn't a chick book at all. just a good read.

david
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Katy Wayne on May 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
I've read several of Mr. Waller's other works, Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend, Bridges of Madison County, and Puerto Vallarta Squeeze.
Those books I could tolerate enough to read in their entirety, even if parts were a little "out-there" in the realm of reality. Good fiction, even escapist fiction, must be believable. The book deals with carpentry, of which I know more than a little about. The lead character hand sanding framing lumber, is hysterical beyond belief. Whoever the author consulted regarding this subject, got the better end of the deal, even if they were simply getting paid in draft beer. His attempts to paint such stupidity as artistic, does more to denigrate true artisans.
His inclusion of the the entire Yerkes County War between heroes of environmentalism and the rest of the world, was like a bad dream that is destined to ruin a mediocre nights sleep...if I hear one more thing about how we're draining the Ogalalla aquifer from some nit wit with a keyboard trying to earn his button with the green mob, I may give up reading *fiction* altogether.
Then, there's the local tavern... Mr. Waller was doing fine, until the guy with the duck in his coat walked in like a bad joke. The bar is the only nightlife in a small, almost dead town, with practically zero population in eastern Wyoming. We're supposed to believe that the owner of the bar, came up with some dwarves for the local thugs to throw around. This is so absurd, that it simply throws more dirt on a dead story. I can only wonder if the author stays up nights wringing his hands over dwarf tossing. The attempt to pin a halo on an eco terrorist, illuminates the mind set of enviromentalism today......if you can't convince the other side with a real argument, get a gun.
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