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The Wandering Hill (Berrybender Narrative, Bk 2) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 13, 2003
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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.
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Top customer reviews
Outrageous is the best general characterization of these stories. The adventures and their characters seem larger than life and more colorful than neon. Not for the faint of heart, unexpected, random, senseless and disturbing atrocities, injuries, and deaths litter these tales, with a side of lots of "rutting." The majority of the initial primary characters do not survive to see bookfour4 of the series.
Yet, the stories grabbed me. I went through the series like popcorn, wanting to see what amazing events would occur to the crazy Berrybenders and their growing entourage. The series is intense, rollercoastering through every facet of human emotion and many aspects of abnormal psychology. Nothing dull in these books. The frequent connections to actual historical persons and events keep the tales interesting and grounded, despite the continuum of bizarre incidents. Not for everyone, but I liked it.
The final chapter of the book is what earns that final fifth star. It is an awesome scene involving Pomp Charboneau, Tasmin Berrybender, and Pomp's deceased mother Sacagawea. I could see it in a movie, bringing tears to everyone's eyes, including Tasmin's.
There is a sort of humor in death. Larry McMurtry kills his characters off more than just occasionally, and those he doesn't kill he will often maim. One of the oddest scenes I've ever read involves Lord Berrybender, his son Bobbetty, and a fork in the father's hand. Poor Bobbetty really gets it in this story, harmless and silly though the teenager is. He seems like a nice enough kid to me, completely unsuited to the wild, but having lots of fun, come what may.
Tasmin is still the star of the book, as she was in Sin Killer. She's amazing.
I'm really glad I discovered this series. Sin Killer just showed up in a drawer. I don't know who bought it or how it got there. It had been sitting there for a long time, maybe years.