When this 500 page "Western" showed up on my doorstep I was really looking forward to digging in. I envisioned it more along the lines of The Thorn Birds - historical generational story. The timeline is a little more condensed than that - it encompasses Matthew's lifetime only, during his youth and as a younger man. The book is based in New Mexico and is considered a Western, but it centers more on the people than the environs surrounding them - so it's a character driven book that could be based in any region of the US really.
It is the second book in a trilogy and while you can easily follow the story, I often felt like I was missing a little bit of back-story that would have been helpful so I do recommend that you read the first book before starting this one.
I will say that I personally felt that while the story was good and engaging with the characters interesting, and the details of those times fascinating........the length of the book could have been reduced and the plot tightened by at least 100 pages without loss to the storyline.
Click HERE to read Chapter 1
Michael McGarrity returns with the second installment of his sweeping, richly
authentic New York Times bestselling trilogy set in the raw, untrammelled New
Mexico backlands during the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and World
Hard Country, the first novel in the Kerney family trilogy and the début prequel
to his national bestselling Kevin Kerney crime novels, was critically acclaimed for
its authentic, gritty realism, its sprawling, engrossing story, and its compelling,
engaging characters. An instant hit on several national bestseller lists, Hard
Country continues to attract an overwhelmingly positive response from critics,
booksellers and readers.
Backlands advances the story of Patrick Kerney, his ex-wife Emma, and their
young son Matthew, shortly after the tragic battlefield death of their eldest son
CJ at the end of World War I. Scarred by the loss of an older brother he idolized,
estranged from a father he barely knows, and deeply troubled by the failing health of a mother he adores,
eight-year-old Matthew is suddenly and irrevocably forced to set aside his childhood and take on
responsibilities far beyond his years. When the world spirals into the Great
Depression and drought settles like a plague over the nation, Matt must abandon
his own dreams to salvage the Kerney ranch. Plunged into a deep trough of dark
family secrets, hidden crimes, broken promises and lies, Matt must struggle to
survive on the unforgiving, sun-blasted, drought-stricken Tularosa Basin.
An expansive, epic tale like Phillip Meyer's The Son, and in the wonderful
storyteller vein of Larry McMurty's Lonesome Dove, McGarrity's Backlands
showcases his keen eye for historical detail, awe-inspiring scenery, and the bitter
harshness of life on the last vestiges of the 20th Century frontier west.