The Wandering Hill
, the second volume in Larry McMurtry's The Berrybender Narratives, retains the humor of the first installment, Sin Killer
, while establishing a more meditative mood. Picking up where Sin Killer
left off, The Wandering Hill
finds noble English family the Berrybenders waiting out the oncoming winter at a high plains trading post, delaying their hunting expedition through the frontier-era American west. Tight confines force the spirited, bickering Berrybenders to contend with one another, as well as an assortment of colorful attendants and raw trappers. Conflict has arisen between fiery and very pregnant heroine Tasmin and her stoical, evangelical mountain man husband Jim Snow, a.k.a. Sin Killer. Selfish, randy patriarch Lord Berrybender, having lost a leg, seven toes, and three fingers thus far on their journey (though not his "favorite appendage"), is slowly losing his sanity. Malicious youngest child Mary begins an odd pseudo-sexual friendship with naturalist Piet Van Wely, while "foppish" heir Bobbety's no less ambiguous relationship with priest Father Geoffrin inspires his father to accidentally stick his son in the eye with a fork. In between many such self-inflicted disasters, three children are born, fierce native tribes attack, a man is sewn into a buffalo carcass, and many lives are lost, often in the presence of a strange, mobile hill whose legendary appearance signals impending doom. McMurtry, meanwhile, continues the momentum he built with Sin Killer
, offering graceful storytelling, wonderfully dimensional realism, and deadpan wit. The wintry Wandering Hill
, however, diverges from Sin Killer
's madcap activity to further consider the inner lives of many of its splendid characters. McMurtry will have his fans clamoring for an answer, though delighting in his wandering path toward a resolution. --Ross Doll
From Publishers Weekly
This is the second volume in McMurtry's four-book series the Berrybender Narratives, following last year's Sin Killer. Set in 1833 along the banks of the Yellowstone River, the comedic melodrama mixes unwashed mountain men with an arrogant, obnoxious and uncouth family of English aristocrats in a saga of high violence, low morals and lusty copulation. Lord Berrybender and his brood of selfish bumbling children, servants and mistress are touring the American West, shooting every animal in sight. The lord is a one-legged, drunken satyr who cares only for his own pleasure, and pokes his son's eye out with a fork. The rest of the family is just as self-centered and irresponsible. Eldest daughter Tasmin, a vulgar, opinionated woman, is married to enigmatic mountain man Jim Snow, known as the Sin Killer for his fervent brutality in the punishment of sin (not his own, of course). He cannot understand why Tasmin willfully refuses to be more like his two Indian wives, silent, obedient and submissive. Still, their love is passionate and so are their fistfights. The English group and a bunch of smelly, hairy mountain men winter over at a trading post through months of quarrels, meanness and downright coarse behavior, while marauding Sioux under the command of a white man-hating war chief called the Partezon gruesomely torture and slaughter any white they can catch. McMurtry tosses in famous hunters and mountain men like Hugh Glass, Kit Carson and Tom Fitzpatrick, plus a buffalo stampede, grizzly bears and an Indian ambush, but these are just props to support the soap-opera antics of the Berrybender clan. A few folks manage to get themselves killed, but there are plenty of annoying Englishmen left to people the next two volumes.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.