The wolf must have come from the south. The New Mexico ranchland had been cleaned of wolves, but she was killing cattle and had to be caught. Young Billy Parham traps the wolf but does not kill her; he takes her back to Mexico, to the mountains that are home.
"The Crossing," the second book in Cormac McCarthy's border trilogy that began with his National Book Award winning "All the Pretty Bourses," follows the genre of a young cowboy lured south by the beauty and mystery of Mexico.
Set in the Depression era,"The Crossing" is the story of the vanishing Wild West, where barbed wire interrupts what was once open land and paved roads intrude the desolate backcountry. It's the story of brothers and horses in a deadly land where thieves and murderers are more common than watering holes, where a man can die of thirst or starvation if a bullet doesn't kill him first.
"Midmorning alone in that country he led the drenched and bottomed horse afoot up a cobbled arroyo. He talked to the horse and kept to the rocks and where the horse put a foot in the sand of the arroyo floor her dropped the reins and went back and repaired the mark with a whisk of grass. His trouserlegs were stiff with dried blood and he knew that both he and the horse were going to have to find water very soon."
Parham returns to the family's New Mexico ranch after setting the wolf free and discovers the dangerous nature of the land.
He picks up his younger brother and rides to Mexico again, this time in pursuit of horses stolen from the ranch. Thus begins a parlous journey through still wild country full of dangerous and desperate men, gypsies, decrepit towns and kind folk that nurture those in need. From this journey only one will return alive.
McCarthy carries the reader on horseback through the desert and mountains of Mexico and the American southwest. "The Crossing" is sweeping in vision and carries the momentum of western novels while reaching deep into the reader's soul. McCarthy introduces the reader to wounded veterans of the Mexican Revolution, visionary priests and desert bandits still living by the law of the gun. The dismal life of rural villagers used to corruption and death appalls the senses.
"The Crossing" moves at a gallop, leaving little room for mechanics. McCarthy's writing style excludes the use of quotations in dialogue. End of sentence punctuation and the occasional comma are all that are necessary. Without punctuation the dialogue seems quieter, the conversations little more than a whisper.
While much of the dialogue is one-word statements and responses, often in Spanish, the lack of punctuation adds to the pace.
McCarthy has written the perfect compliment to "All the Pretty Horses" and sets the foundation for the last in the trilogy "Cities of the Plain," He has found an overlooked genre in fiction and writes with power and sorrow. Those looking for a feel-good book with a happy ending shouldn't read this book. Those who appreciate prescient writing and a story that reaches to the depths of the soul should.