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92 WesternAmerican Literature Montana Women. ByToni Volk. (New York: Soho Press, 1991. 305 pages, $19.95.) Set in Great Falls and vicinity during the mid-1940s, ’50s, and early ’60s, Toni Volk’s first novel, Montana Women, focuses on the lives, loves, and half­ realized dreams of two strong-willed sisters. Etta and Pearl are town girls. Beyond the Great Falls city limits, Montana is a vast and lonely place for them. During the waning days of World War II, Etta and Pearl venture out into the immensity of Montana and the beginnings of adulthood. Seemingly sensible Etta gets pregnant and suffers through a backroom abortion, only to marry Harold, the guy who got her pregnant. Early in the marriage she learns that the crude abortion has left her unable to have chil­ dren; then Harold is killed in a car wreck. For the next fifteen years or so, quiet and reclusive Etta stays close to Great Falls and devotes herself to religion and worrying about her sister Pearl’s marriage. Fun-loving Pearl meets Gordon “Buck”Buckman, truck driver and wouldbe rancher, at a cook-out. In a few months, Pearl is pregnant, married to Buck, and living on his fatherAugust’sranch eighty miles east of GreatFalls. Daughter Katie proves ajoy to old August. In the years following, Katie and her iron-willed grandfatherjoin forces to keep Pearl and Buck married. Pearl matures, proves a good mother, and starts to like ranch life, while Buck becomes entrenched in alcohol and womanizing. Given these characters, it might be expected that Montana Women is pure soap opera. Toni Volk, however, has produced a tale of considerable power. Solid characterization, vivid sense of place, and a deft touch for the passage of time all contribute to the tale’s success. The supporting characters, including Buck, are superlatively drawn. Buck provides the animal force that propels the narrative. Oblivious to the opinions of all except Katie and August, Buck sees adultery as a harmless game. Volk’s first novel closes with Buck’s death and Katie in high school. One suspects that a second look at Pearl, Etta, and Katie is forthcoming. JAMES B. HEMESATH Adams State College The Evening Star: A Novel. By Larry McMurtry. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. 637 pages, $23.00.) While Texasville, hopelessly mired in cynicism, fails to complement mean­ ingfully TheLast Picture Show, Larry McMurtry’s TheEvening Staris a fitting, and rewarding, sequel to Terms ofEndearment. In recent fiction aging and illness have occasioned novels as different as Bobbie Ann Mason’s Spence & Lila (1988) and Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety (1987), but for the patient reader Reviews 93 McMurtry’sAurora Greenway and company’s facing of these inevitable human problems is illuminating. In Terms ofEndearmentAurora’s daughter Emma Horton complains Aurora has had “five or six men trail [you] around for years”; in The Evening Star yachtsman Trevor, oilman Vernon, and tenor Alberto have all died and been replaced by cranky General Hector Scott, Aurora’s “resident lover”for twenty years; Pascal, an explosive Frenchman with a crooked penis; un-degreed lay psychiatristJerry Bruckner, Aurora’s admittedly “last crush”;and Theo, one of two old Greek owners of Houston’sAcropolis Bar. In TermsofEndearmentAurora the cynosure, for whom flirting is her “way of life,”says, “I’m hardly the sort to content myselfwith being a grandmother”;in TheEvening Starthe irrepressible septuagenarian is a great-grandmother who declares to slightly shocked Melanie, Emma’s daughter, “I do still have a sexual appetite”and is unwilling to “devote myself to knitting bootees.”Yet she yearns to be more than “the crabby grandmother of her dead daughter’s children”—pregnant Melanie, mental case Teddy, imprisoned Tommy. An eccentric “memory project”helps her try to “think”about what she has experienced, to use her brain instead of merely her body. McMurtry deepens Aurora’s character, showing her uncommon loyalty to family and friends—supporting shaky Teddy, visiting imprisoned Tommy and hospitalized Pascal, reversing roles with her maid/best friend of forty-two years when Rosie gets cancer, and urging the passive, unresistant Bruckner to recog­ nize that “it takes immense energy to remain decent.”Even after her stroke she relentlessly confronts...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 92-93
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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