This is the story of Duane, Jacy, and Sonny—teenagers longing for love and a more thrilling life—as well as some of the adults in their small town of Thalia, Texas. The teenagers dream of bigger things than the town seems to offer and the adults are drawn to the fresh teenagers like moths to a flame. The adults’ misery with life in Thalia is palpable.
This story is humorous and nostalgic, yet melancholy and dejected. The sadness most of the characters feel about their lives is front and center, and even when the teenagers are thrill-seeking, their bad decisions come back to haunt them in the form of unexpected outcomes. The adults are no better. Even in the last chapter when Ruth rages at Sonny’s ineptitude and inadvertent coldness toward her, she still longs for his youthful touch while she exclaims, “I’m really not smart.”
I’m certain around the time of its original publication, the spotlight on the internal lives of these teenagers’ sex lives must have been illuminating. But reading it now, the revelations are somewhat cliché and groan-inducing, rather than thrilling.
But more importantly, McMurtry’s writing is economical yet sturdy, even poetic at times. And he has a strong ability to develop characters in a natural way. There is one chapter that affected me deeply, the one where Sam the Lion goes to the lake with Duane and Sonny and tells them about a time when he was their age and took a girl to the same spot on the lake. It is a moment of reflection for Sam the Lion that affects him and the reader deeply, revealing his longing for a love and a place in time that is distant yet ever-present in his heart. The teenage boys have a difficult time imagining their elder statesman as a teenager like them, doing the same lusty pining they themselves are guilty of doing. It’s an excellent scene with a lot to contemplate and unpack, and its written beautifully.
A sleepy, dusty old town filled with warm and wonderful characters. Frustrations of small town living are in every day and still the people move forward.
Of the three main characters, Duane, Jacy & Sonny, I like Sonny the best. But the lives of all of these characters is poignant and warm as they find their way through their last year of high school and into the world.
I look forward to continuing their stories in Texasville one day soon.
A dusty, slightly hopeless journey through the barrenness of coming of age in west Texas, where everyone hits their peak in high school, and it's all downhill from there. Fans of Keith Maillard will appreciate the author's unflinching gaze and southern gothic sensibility.
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