Saturday, November 17, 2007
book review - The Crossing
This is the second in the Border trilogy by Cormac McCarthy and there are several similarities with the first book All the Pretty Horses. Again there is a teenager who is wise and brave beyond his years. Billy Parham starts off by living in New Mexico with bus brother Boyd and mother and father. Like most rural family settings life is relatively hard and the father rules his sons and his land. But Billy is a bit of an independent spirit and it comes to the fore when his father and him track a wolf.
Throughout the book there are moments when there is not only symbolism but almost scenes that resemble biblical parables. To get into those moments it requires Billy to jettison the ranch and family and head over into Mexico with the trapped wolf, which he decides deserves to be taken home. There is something about man mastering a beast here as well as the wolf being a lightning rod to channel Billy’s maturity and when finally the wolf is killed he loses something physical but has gained the same independence that the wolf displayed. After meeting a priest who tells him a tale of how he met someone who challenged God and as a result of watching that struggle stopped believing himself he is given an insight into independent thought and the consequences of going against a calling.
The first crossing ends with him returning to find out that his father and mother have been killed and the horses have been stolen. He seeks out Boyd and together they go hunting for the stolen horses. They travel through Mexico and find the horses but as a result of fighting for them put their own lives on the line and ultimately become marked men. It doesn’t help that not only they get in a scuffle that results in the local gang leader ending up with a broken back but that they show no signs of appreciating the different rules that operate in Mexico. At this point a bit of Mexican history would have helped out because there are numerous references to the revolution but when Billy does sit down with a blind man who has a story to tell it is unclear what actually went on.
Boyd is shot for stealing the horses and Billy finally finds him and then helps reunite him with a girl they helped earlier on in their trek for the horses. Boyd and the girl disappear leaving Billy with little option but to cross the border and head for home. Three years go by with him working on various ranches before he decides to head back to Mexico to find his brother. Myths surround Boyd, who is reported to have killed two men, and Billy finally establishes that his brother is dead. The girl has disappeared but the corpse of his brother is retrievable and he digs him up and starts to head for home. After almost losing his horse to bandits and his own life he has a chance to squeeze in a third encounter with another parable teller. This time it is the father in search of the aeroplane his son was flying when he crashed and died. He knows that the plane the gypsies find for him is not the one but does that reduce the feeling of success that the quest has ended? He advises Billy to find what he is looking for. That leads Billy to head home and bury Boyd in his home soil.
With this being a trilogy it ends with Billy feeling pulled back to Mexico where you know the final part will begin and the story will continue and conclude.
Version read - Picador paperback