Friday, October 23, 2015

Larry McMurtry - The Desert Rose

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More than a decade ago, I decided to restart my library subscription.  One of the books I drew out was Larry McMurtry's The Late Child.  I was so taken by the book that it remained in my mind.  I returned the book and forgot the author's name with the passage of time.  Luckily, I retained the name of the book in my memory.  Armed with that, I was able to hunt out the name of the author and look for other books by him on Amazon.

It was a bit of a struggle.  Larry McMurtry's books are plentiful but expensive if you want them shipped all the way to India. Not many of his books are available on kindle. For instance, after reading this book, I wanted to re-read The Late Child.  But it is not available on kindle, not even in paperback.  It is out of stock.

Harmony works as a showgirl in Stardust, one of the hotels on the Strip in Las Vegas.  She started work when she was 17.  She has been called the most beautiful girl in Vegas.  Fielding compliments and dealing with admirers has been a part of the job for her.  Now, she is nearing 39.  She has a sixteen-year-old daughter, Pepper, who is much more beautiful than she was.

Harmony and Pepper do not get along.  Pepper prefers to confide in Harmony's friends.  She criticizes Harmony's taste in clothes and men.  Granted, Harmony has not been able to pick good boyfriends. Her husband abandoned her years ago when Pepper was but a baby.  She has since had a string of boyfriends, mostly useless wastrels who have only ruined her life further.

Harmony tries to be sweet and hopeful always.  It is this quality of hers that keeps Gary, a friend, always to her side. Along with Jessie, Myrtle and Gary, Harmony tries to keep her life as happy as she can.  She raises peacocks and tries to deal with poverty, her tiffs with Pepper, and sundry other knocks that life deals her with as much equanimity as possible.

The story, however, is not just about Harmony.  It is also about Pepper.  Pepper is growing up beautiful and is surrounded by admirers of her own.  There is Mel, a rich man who is besotted by her.  Then she gets an offer to star in the very show her mother is a part of. Should she take it or turn it down?

If you like quiet little novels that are not flashy but allow you an insight into various interesting characters, you will love this one. A lot happens here.  A lot is going on in the lives of Pepper and Harmony.  I was so engrossed in the novel that despite being extremely busy at the moment, I finished it in record time.

The characters are completely human.  They are replete with flaws. A bit crazy even.  Take Harmony's obsession with peacocks, or the way Myrtle is deeply in love with her goat, Maud.  Jessie loves her little dog more than her boyfriend. Mel loves Pepper to distraction, but not sexually, which frustrates her.  All these characters and their quirks perk up the novel no end.  It makes them memorable and interesting.


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