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The Crossing (The Border Trilogy, Book 2)

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Although "The Crossing" does not concern itself with the characters from "All The Pretty Horses", the first part of Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, it is set in the same Mexican and Texan badlands at about the same time and similarly concerns itself with a young man's rites of passage.


A wolf has been preying on the livestock at the farm where Billy Parham and his younger brother, live. Billy eventually traps the wolf and, realising that it is not from the local area but across the Mexican border, resolves to return it to its native habitat. From initial mistrust, she-wolf and boy form a bond as he guides the wolf home.


Upon return, Billy discovers his parents have been savagely murdered and their horses have been rustled from the farm. He and Boyd return across the border in search of the horses. They find the horses, but with grave consequences.


Billy is as resourceful as John Grady Cole, the protagonist in the first part of the trilogy and in the later stages of the book, his banter with his younger brother provides flashes of humour, not something for which McCarthy's work is usually noted.


Sadly this is not as fine a novel as its predecessor, which I thought superior than his recent, better known work. The book's flaw is to do with the encounters the Parhams have with many other travellers in the course of their wanderings who expound various philosophies at some length. It has to be said that, although this is a book that describes many bleak events, these are the most gruelling parts of the book to read as don't seem lead anywhere or provide either characters or readers with much food for thought. Billy learns more from his dealings with the she-wolf and harsh realities such as bandit attacks or when the wolf is captured by dog-fighters than from his fellow travellers. Some of the encounters are frankly bizarre, such as with a group of gypsies who are dragging the fuselage of an abandoned plane into Texas for a reward.


Apart from these sequences, McCarthy's language is again as stark, portentous and uncompromising as the landscape and events he describes, and this is really the novel's saving grace. As death and cruelty surround the boys, there is the tenderness of their fraternal relationship, their respect for nature, and, later in the novel, the bond Boyd forms with a young Mexican girl they meet, to provide glimmers of hope in this typcially dark, bleak novel.


Not up there with the author's best, but hopefully "Cities of the Plain", the final part of the trilogy, will bring the saga to a satisfactory conclusion.



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I thought All the Pretty Horses was an amazing read and was concerned that this would not be as good because the middle book in trilogies often ends up being sort of flabby.  I needn't have worried.


The crossings refer to crossings between New Mexico and Mexico and back again.  There are 3 such journeys.  The time is at the beginning of the 20th century, when most of this land and its wild inhabitants has been tamed and controlled (a theme in Lonesome Dove, too).   It used to be necessary to hire skilled wolf trappers to protect herds of animals, but now the only one left is near death and his tools, while carefully stored, seem to be from the time of alchemy.  Nevertheless, a pregnant she-wolf from Mexico has come up into New Mexico and begun preying on the cattle herd of the Parham family and the oldest son, Billy (about 15 or 16), is determined to capture her.  He does, but then he decides to go on a quixotic journey to return her to the mountains of Mexico, from whence she came.  Things don't quite work out the way he had hoped.  Billy has heard a statement that there are 3 journeys in a man's life, one with a woman, one with a man, and one with an animal.  So this is the journey with the "woman."


When Billy returns home, he finds that his family's horses have been stolen and taken into Mexico. 

He also finds that his parents were murdered in that theft, but that his younger brother, Boyd, survived.

  He and his younger brother, Boyd, decide to go to Mexico to retrieve the horses.  Boyd is an almost mythical figure.  He rides and lassos like no man anyone has ever seen and the Mexicans greatly admire him.  Again, while sort of successful, this journey does not at all turn out the way it was intended.  Boyd ends up staying in Mexico.  This is Billy's journey with a man, although Boyd is so young that he barely qualifies.  


The third journey is taken when Billy is only about 20 and he's looking to find Boyd.   He is successful, but again, not in the way he would want.  At some point, he encounters a dreadfully malformed dog, probably injured and then poorly recovered, and drives it from the shelter they share out into the rain.  It appeared as if Billy had lost all of his capacity for sympathy and mercy, but at the end, thank goodness, he recovers it.  Much good that it does the dog, which has disappeared.  This is Billy's journey with an animal.


I thought this book was just about perfect, although I know from FB that Graham disagrees.  I was enormously pleased that Billy rediscovered his mercy and it gave me hope for his future.  But what a time and place they all lived in! 


I plan to read the third book before the end of the year, but not yet.  I think these books are so amazing that I need to let each one settle in my mind before turning to the other.


Highly recommend.

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No.  I realize I'm a moderator and should know, but I don't.  And I did search for it to prevent this from happening.

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Have merged the two threads.

The older one took some finding as the search facility didn't help (maybe because Grammath added the "Border Trilogy" bit to the title?). Found it eventually on page 15 of C20 Fiction.

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21 hours ago, megustaleer said:

Have merged the two threads.

The older one took some finding as the search facility didn't help (maybe because Grammath added the "Border Trilogy" bit to the title?). Found it eventually on page 15 of C20 Fiction.

That makes me feel better because I searched for it by author and title, surprised that there wasn't a thread.  But I did not go page by page.  Thank you Meg.

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