(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Border Trilogy is a fictionalized portrayal of two boys’ pilgrimage from youth to manhood during the years immediately before, during, and following World War II. John Grady Cole and Billy Parham are the central figures in a sweeping story depicting the decline of the cowboy way of life in the American Southwest.

All the Pretty Horses opens in 1949 with sixteen-year-old John Grady Cole, the last in a long line of Grady ranchers, facing an uncertain future. His grandfather has just died, and his father has returned from the war disillusioned and sick, prompting his mother to sell the ranch and leave Texas. With his horse Redbo and his best friend Lacey Rawlins, Cole decides to head south across the Pecos River into Mexico. At the border crossing, the two pick up young runaway Jimmy Blevins. When Blevins’s horse is spooked during a lightning storm, Rawlins and Cole are reluctantly drawn into a plan to retrieve it. During the attempt, bedlam breaks out, and Blevins is separated from Rawlins and Cole. Subsequently, he is caught by the Mexican police and later executed. Cole and Rawlins eventually wind up being hired to break horses on a large hacienda, where Cole engages in forbidden love with the owner’s beautiful daughter, Alejandra. This leads to a succession of disasters, from the boys’ arrest and incarceration to Cole’s involvement in a prison killing. Once they are released from jail, Rawlins decides to return to Texas.

The Crossing begins in 1939, when brothers Billy and Boyd Parham are living near Cloverdale, New Mexico. Billy is obsessed with trapping a renegade she-wolf that has crossed the border from Mexico to raid his father’s cattle ranch. Once he has trapped the wolf, Billy becomes attached to her and decides...

(The entire section is 729 words.)