three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
12-Sept-Oct-2004
user_rating: 
0
A-FollyGloryThe final installment of the Berrybender Narratives finds the long-suffering family in Santa Fe in the 1830s, where a band of Mexicans has taken the sorry clan prisoner. While in captivity, Tasmin Berrybender, the feisty daughter of the English patriarch, mourns the death of her lover and wonders whether her murderous husband will return in time to save the clan from a long, torturous march through the Texan desert. Various historical figures, including George Catlin and Kit Carson, make cameo appearances; a Berrybender ends up at the Alamo. All the while, cholera, gunshots, and torture continue to mar the frontier nation.
Simon & Schuster. 236 pages. $25.
ISBN: 0743233050

Oregonian 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Folly and Glory concludes the Berrybender Narratives on a sad note, but a well-struck one. The violence that had been mistaken for slapstick in some of the earlier books is shown to have been the roots of a national disease, one that formed America and grips it still." Jeff Baker

Columbus Dispatch 3 of 5 Stars
"Life proceeds mundanely in McMurtry’s West, the daily task of survival in an inhospitable land punctuated only by sudden violence and death. The mundane stretches of the narrative give time to get to know and like McMurtry’s characters, so that the violence is all the more shocking and poignant when it occurs." Bill Eichenberger

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"McMurtry, I suspect, began this blood-soaked black comedy as little more than a lark, and he often seems to be putting his characters through agony or ecstasy at his own sudden whims. The story gains emotional ballast as it moves along, however." Rodney Welch

San Antonio Express-News 3 of 5 Stars
"The Berrybender Narratives will not stand as tall in McMurtry’s long list of books as some of his other series, namely the four-volume Lonesome Dove series." David Hendricks

Austin American-Statesman 2.5 of 5 Stars
"McMurtry frontloads the twilight of the American frontier into this last Berrybender book; he saddles melancholy like an extra pack mule shambling after the travelers with ‘THEME’ painted across its flanks, in case anyone misses the point." Vicente Lozano

Orlando Sentinel 2.5 of 5 Stars
"It’s not that each of the four rather short books hasn’t been a good read. It’s that the writing and the plotting seem more habit than inspiration. … In his books, McMurtry still has the gift of seamlessly weaving in historical figures and of creating interesting fictional characters who live American history (even if they’re Brits) during some of the country’s most fascinating eras." Dean Johnson

Rocky Mountain News 2.5 of 5 Stars
"As before, the people are cartoonish and the credibility is strained. … But readers who expected such things didn’t learn from the first three Narratives. We’re in the literary land of Law Unto Itself, and we may as well enjoy the ride." Christine Jacques

Critical Summary

Take them for what they are, critics say of Folly and Glory and the rest of the Berrybender Narratives, and you might enjoy it. Judge it against Lonesome Dove, and you will inevitably be disappointed. Criticisms of the book include its meandering and thin plot, stereotypical characters, and indiscriminate violence. Still, critics agree that this volume is much better than the previous three, particularly with the matured character of Tasmin. It at least offers a sense of closure and a meditation on the nature of the American frontier. Beware: most reviewers agreed that if you read Folly and Glory separately from the rest of the series, you won’t fully understand the plot. It might be all or nothing of the Berrybender lot!