In this brilliant saga—the final volume of The Berrybender Narratives and an epic in its own right—Larry McMurtry lives up to his reputation for delivering novels with “wit, grace, and more than a hint of what might be called muscular nostalgia, fit together to create a panoramic portrait of the American West” (The New York Times Book Review).
As this finale opens, Tasmin and her family are under irksome, though comfortable, arrest in Mexican Santa Fe. Her father, the eccentric Lord Berrybender, is planning to head for Texas with his whole family and his retainers, English, American, and Native American. Tasmin, who would once have followed her husband, Jim Snow, anywhere, is no longer even sure she likes him, or knows where to go to next. Neither does anyone else—even Captain Clark, of Lewis and Clark fame, is puzzled by the great changes sweeping over the West, replacing red men and buffalo with towns and farms.
In the meantime, Jim Snow, accompanied by Kit Carson, journeys to New Orleans, where he meets up with a muscular black giant named Juppy, who turns out to be one of Lord Berrybender’s many illegitimate offspring, and in whose company they make their way back to Santa Fe. But even they are unable to prevent the Mexicans from carrying the Berrybender family on a long and terrible journey across the desert to Vera Cruz.
Starving, dying of thirst, and in constant, bloody battle with slavers pursuing them, the Berrybenders finally make their way to civilization—if New Orleans of the time can be called that—where Jim Snow has to choose between Tasmin and the great American plains, on which he has lived all his life in freedom, and where, after all her adventures, Tasmin must finally decide where her future lies.
With a cast of characters that includes almost every major real-life figure of the West, Folly and Glory is a novel that represents the culmination of a great and unique four-volume saga of the early days of the West; it is one of Larry McMurtry’s finest achievements.
This is the fourth and final volume in McMurtry's Berrybender Narratives (following By Sorrow's River), a frontier epic of lusty and bloody proportions, in which, fortunately, nearly everyone is killed off. Lord Berrybender, an arrogant and lecherous Englishman and his whining brood of daughters, their brats and servants have been arrested by Mexican authorities and are under house arrest in Santa Fe in the mid-1830s. Tensions between Mexicans and Americans run high as the dispute over Texas drifts toward war. When the Berrybender party is expelled from Santa Fe, the group is forced to march across the desert to Vera Cruz, escorted by inept Mexican soldiers. The grueling journey is filled with hardship and death as thirst, cholera and hostile Indians whittle the group by half. Meanwhile, Jim Snow, aka the Sin Killer, a famous mountain man, plans to rescue his white wife, Tasmin Berrybender, and her family somewhere along the desert route. Once the rescue is complete and the surviving Berrybenders are safely in Texas, Jim goes after the gang of slavers who murdered his son and his Indian wife (mountain men seem to have a lot of wives). Here McMurtry really shows why Jim is called the Sin Killer and why white men and Indians fear the mountain man who shrieks "the Word" and shows no mercy when he is riled up. Of the four books in the series, this is the bloodiest and most brutal, with rapes, torture, mutilation and death heaped upon the characters until grief and despair nearly consume them. Add the disaster at the Alamo and a passel of colorful Texas heroes to the enduring figures of mountain men Kit Carson and Tom Fitzpatrick, and this grisly frontier soap opera concludes with a bang.