Folly and Glory

No one seems to have taken the saying that life is just one damn thing after another more to heart than Larry McMurtry when it comes to plotting the quartet of novels known as The Berrybender Narratives. By the end of Book 3 what had begun as British aristocrat Lord Albany Berrybender’s exuberant and elaborate family game-hunting excursion across the vastness of the American West had, through an incredible series of accidents, adventures, and strange encounters, turned the family and its large group of servants, retainers, and hangers-on into a much smaller, rag-tag troop, stumbling from one misadventure to the next.

As Folly and Glory opens, the Berrybenders are under house arrest in Mexican Santa Fe. Lord Berrybender, minus limbs and fingers, is set on heading for Texas with what is left of his family and retainers, but not before engaging in some embarrassingly public sexual frolics with a lithesome, young, aristocratic Spanish lady. Once in Texas, Berrybender takes it into his head to lend a hand to a small band of fellows who are facing off against a large contingent of Spanish soldiers at the Alamo. So ends his part of the tale.

Meanwhile Berrybender’s daughter, Lady Tasmin, has been separated once again from her husband, the mountain man Jim Snow, also known as The Sin Killer. Tasmin is growing increasingly doubtful about her feelings for Jim and sinking more and more deeply under the hardships, deprivations, and deaths that have dogged her family and their companions for so long. Two of her three children are now dead, one at the hands of Indians, the other to cholera.

The remains of the Berrybender expedition finally make a return to relative civilization—New Orleans—where Tasmin, Jim Snow, and the other still living members of the party must each make a final decision where his or her future lies, to the west, to the east, or somewhere in between.