Picks and Pans Review: The Crossing

updated 06/13/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/13/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Cormac McCarthy

Author of 1992's best-selling All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy is back with his vision of a stark and perilous world intact, his prose still spare and brilliantly exact. Again his protagonist is a teenage boy, Billy Parham, whose moorings to home and family have been severed. Like John Grady in Horses, Billy ventures on horseback from his New Mexico border town into pre-World War II Mexico, where he discovers a world that is by turns mystical, comforting and unspeakably cruel.

McCarthy's books are filled with intense observations: the "wind shadow" of a paw print, the translucent blue of a wolfs eye, the nostrils of a terrified burro, "like two holes in wet mud." What distinguishes The Crossing are the fables within the narrative. In stories told by ancient priests, gypsies and a blind man, McCarthy takes Aquinian forays into the nature of God and reality. In one story he delivers a theory of history, in another a philosophy of good and evil.

It's hard going, but the effort is rewarded, page by page, with language that is honest to the bone and a story that echoes of mythology. (Knopf, $23)

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