Marooned on the western frontier in 1833, the Berrybender clan prove ill suited for their fate. A motley group of Old World royals and attendees, they are hampered by their can't-do spirit. The family struggles for survival, often against themselves. "I only supposed it to be a deer of some kind," a young Berrybender whines after shooting his father's horse.
In this second installment of a planned four-part epic, amusing episodes don't add up to a story. McMurtry certainly has the talent to write a captivating tale of the early wild, wild West. This isn't it. (Simon & Schuster, $26)