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High Plains Tango: A Novel
ISBN 0307209946 / 9780307209948 / 0-307-20994-6
Publisher Shaye Areheart Books
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In an Author's Note at the end of High Plains Tango, Robert Jaems Waller says: "Though this book stands by itself, it is a continuation of two of my other books: The Bridges of Madison County and, especially, A Thousand Country Roads ... A Thousand Country Roads details Carlisle McMillan's search for his father, Robert Kincaid, who played a central role in The Bridges of Madison County."
Waller just can't, try as he might, get back to Madison County. Even though there are those who love to trash Bridges as sentimental twaddle, there are legions more who celebrate it as a romantic tour de force. Whichever side you favor, let it be said that the book delivers exactly what it promises. Not quite true of this book. What promises to be a romance of Waller-like proportions turns into an environmental crusade which turns down the heat, and then switches back to romance and do-goodery.
Carlisle McMillan, Stanford graduate (which comes in handy later on) and wanderer, floats into the town of Salamander, South Dakota, one afternoon and decides to stay. It is far enough away from anything that smacks of "city" to be appealing. He buys property with a derelict house on it and rebuilds it in honor of his mentor, Cody Marx. Cody taught him everything he knows about fine carpentry, and about doing it right, even when it doesn't show. Cody's Way is a metaphor for house building and character building, and Carlisle has learned his lessons well.
There are two women in this tale: Gally Devereaux, married to a big jerk who has the good grace to die, and Susanna Benteen, the auburn-haired beauty who dances naked in the firelight. Does anybody but Waller know women like this? Things are perking along just fine until the long arm of Progress reaches all the way to Salamander, deciding to build a highway, and spoils everything.
There is a lyrical last chapter reminiscent of some of the best-remembered of Waller's prose, and a toast offered by Carlisle's mother, Wynn: "To ancient evenings and distant music." Sound familiar? --Valerie Ryan [via]