I missed a month of my Larry McMurtry 2022 Re-reading Project last month as I was so concerned with my Dean Street December challenge. But I’m not too worried, as it was always going to drift into this year, with one final novel, “Cadillac Man”, which I will now read in February. This one is the final novel in the Houston series and is pretty well set back in the city, with everyone from the previous books having their stories rounded off if they haven’t been already.

I acquired this copy in July 1999 and read it that August, and I don’t seem to have read and reviewed it again since. My copy was a second-hand one, though I didn’t recall where it came from – I suspect a charity shop rather than the book market in Greenwich as there’s a price crossed out but no alphabet code. I had been reading McMurtry from the library (Lewisham Library) since September 1997 and it looks like this one was the first of his I bought.

Larry McMurtry – “The Evening Star”

(17 July 1999, charity shop)

Her mother had always hoped she would write, or, failing that, sing, but she had done neither. She had, in the end, merely lived, partaking rather fully of the human experience, absorbing it, and yet doing nothing with it. That was the common way, of course, and yet the knowledge that she had not transcended the common way left her discontented, restless. It seemed to her that her problem may have been that she absorbed experience too avidly – so avidly that she had never taken time really to think about it. (p. 32)

As it’s the last book in the series, concentrating on Aurora Greenway, who it feels McMurtry had really wanted to write about again and again, and she’s entering her 70s along with her maid, Rosie, the General being in his 80s, you’re aware as you pick this up that it’s going to be a descent into losing the main characters you’ve read about in great detail over six books. And so it happens, although there are plenty of people left at the end and we extend into Aurora’s great-grandson’s adulthood in the final chapter.

We open with Aurora and Rosie visiting Aurora’s grandson Tommy in prison, a hated but necessary routine. Her daughter Emma died a few books ago, Tommy, Teddy and Melanie’s father lives in California with a new wife and kids and Aurora and Rosie have done their best to raise the children, but Tommy is in prison, Teddy has had major psychiatric problems and Melanie has lost her childhood charm and is dissatisfied and pregnant with a deadbeat boyfriend – classic McMurtry territory, then.

Over the book we cycle through chapters from the viewpoints of Aurora, Rosie, Teddy, Teddy’s son ‘Bump’, Tommy, Melanie and the General, Aurora’s last-remaining beau from “Terms of Endearment” (we get a quick update on how all the others were lost, as well as mention of Danny Deck’s daughter’s fate from the last novel), as well as a new character, the cod-psychoanalyst Jerry.

There are a few new boyfriends, Pascal the Frencher-than-French Frenchman and two delightful Greek brothers, and other recurring characters, notably Patsy Carpenter, in whose mind we spent so much time in “Moving On“, now older and damaged by all her poor choices of men but still looking out for the grandchildren and sparring with Aurora. Time wears on, the narrative becomes more fragmented, people move to LA, people die, and we’re often left with four old people bickering in a house, but it’s still classic McMurtry, as clear and precise as reportage, socking you with an emotional punch when you’re not expecting it. The fragmented scenes seen through young Henry’s eyes as he spends time with his failing great-grandmother as as masterful as anything McMurtry (or a lot of other writers) ever wrote.

In the end, it’s a meditation on the use of a life (see the quote at the top; this spurs Aurora into a fruitless project to remember every day of her life) and a bittersweet conclusion to a sprawling, uneven series I very much enjoyed.