The conclusion of my second, short series in my Larry McMurtry 2022 Re-reading Project: the two Harmony and Pepper novels: I read and reviewed “The Desert Rose” last month. According to my records, this was the fifth McMurtry I read, back in September 1998 (I read a lot of his books in 1998!) from the library, presumably Lewisham – very sadly, they appear not to have any print copies of his books now. The copy I read this time around was a BookCrossing copy, sent to me from Australia by Peggysmum in 2005

Larry McMurtry – “The Late Child”

(15 February 2005)

‘I guess I don’t own very much,’ Harmony said, as the four of them stood in the empty living room. ‘I thought I surely owned more than would fit in one trailer.’ (p. 98)

When I read this one in 2005 I had this to say about it:

The sequel to Desert Rose, this is brilliant. Classic McMurtry – funny, sad and always well-observed. The ultimately uplifting tale of ex-showgirl Harmony’s road trip across America with her eccentric sisters.

And that is the crux of the matter: but why does Harmony go on a road trip? Because, as we find out on the first page, her daughter, Pepper, has died. Her life starts to unwind after this blow, and when she finds herself in what must be her mid- to late 40s, alone, her latest boyfriend having walked out, and only her small son, the marvellous Eddie, to keep her going, even Gary and Jessie and Myrtle, her old friends, don’t seem enough and she needs her sisters around her.

When Neddie and Pat turn up, they load all of Harmony and Eddie’s goods in a U-Haul and set off across country, first turning to New York, where Laurie, the woman who had written to Harmony with the news, can be found. Picking up some slightly stereotyped Indian taxi drivers and a couple of homeless Black kids (although there are stereotypes involved in their jobs and socioeconomic status, these are all individualised characters and warm and caring), and with a segue for Eddie and his new puppy to become nationally famous and meet the President, various of them make it to Oklahoma, where Harmony finds that her family is in a mess that no one can sort out, although she helps with some of it.

She learns that sometimes you have to cut your losses and wonders if it’s better to live with the same man for 30 years with no love or many men for much shorter times with brief moments of love. But it’s not a depressing book: it’s funny and surprising and has female and family solidarity and a slightly shocking scene that even shocks a showgirl from Vegas.

Will Harmony go back home to her chosen family or stay with her birth family? Will Eddie ever stop watching the Discovery Channel and using it to debunk the Bible stories his aunts tell him? He’s a wonderful creation, the story is warm and involving and satisfying, full of strong and complex women, and even though I remembered nothing about this book, I loved it and I can see why it helped to hook me into my life-long love of McMurtry.

Are you doing the project with me? Are you planning to read this one? If you’re doing “Lonesome Dove” how are you getting along?