Picks and Pans Review: Nothing but Blue Skies
"If you come to a fork in the road, take it." With these words from Yogi Berra, McGuane (whose seven previous novels include Keep the Change and Something to Be Desired) sets the tone in this characteristically funny yet painful saga of a Montana entrepreneur who arrives at a crossroad and loses his bearings.
When his wife, Gracie, suddenly leaves him for another man, 44-year-old Frank Copenhaver is thrust on his own for the first time since his father disinherited him fresh out of college for throwing an orgy involving several tons of straw and sundry barnyard animals in one of his rental buildings. The first rude kick is just what Frank needs—he becomes a businessman, husband and father. As for the second kick, well, it looks likes two decades of solid citizenship haven't extinguished Frank's capacity for lunatic mayhem. Or his poor luck with pigs.
As his depression deepens over his wife's departure and his businesses unravel, Frank starts to slink around the darkened streets of Deadlock, Mont., like a coyote, peeping through neighbors' windows at the life he let slip through his fingers. Like a long line of McGuane man-boys before him, he doesn't know what he wants until it's gone. Continuing his fall from Gracie, Frank's attempts at righting things go wrong in increasingly spectacular fashion. The hilarious set pieces include Frank and three girlfriends' drunken midnight ramble and a humiliating melee at a pig show.
As the novelist's fans might expect, the antidote to civilization and its absurdities lies in the great outdoors, which McGuane makes sing. The fragrant sagebrush ravines, epic sunsets and fishing—with or without his beloved college-student daughter, Holly—seem to be Frank's only lifelines. That is, until Holly falls under the spell of a local fascist and her parents discover, as Yogi might put it, that sometimes the only way to move forward involves going back. (Houghton Mifflin/Seymour Lawrence, $21.95)