By Sorrow's River (Berrybender Narratives Series #3)

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Overview

At the heart of this third volume of Larry McMurtry's Western saga remains the beautiful and determined Tasmin Berrybender, now married to the "Sin Killer" and mother to their young son, Monty, who, although Tasmin intends him to be an English gentleman like his grandfather, is at the moment living the childhood of a savage.

By Sorrow's River continues the Berrybender party's trail across the endless Great Plains of the West toward Santa Fe, where they intend, those who are ...

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By Sorrow's River (Berrybender Narratives Series #3)

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Overview

At the heart of this third volume of Larry McMurtry's Western saga remains the beautiful and determined Tasmin Berrybender, now married to the "Sin Killer" and mother to their young son, Monty, who, although Tasmin intends him to be an English gentleman like his grandfather, is at the moment living the childhood of a savage.

By Sorrow's River continues the Berrybender party's trail across the endless Great Plains of the West toward Santa Fe, where they intend, those who are lucky enough to survive the journey, to spend the winter. Along the way, Tasmin, whose husband, Jim Snow, has vanished off to scout ahead of them, falls in love with Pomp Charbonneau, only to see him killed by the ruthless commander of Spanish troops, while her father, Lord Berrybender, now reduced to limping along on one leg and a pair of crutches, increasingly makes a fool of himself by falling in love with his own mistress. They meet up with a vast cast of characters from the history of the West: Kit Carson, the famous scout, Le Partezon, the fearsome Sioux war chief; The Ear Taker, an Indian whose specialty is creeping up on people while they are asleep and slicing an ear off with a sharp knife; two aristocratic Frenchmen whose eccentric aim is to cross the Great Plains by hot air balloon; a party of slavers led by the cowardly but bloodthirsty Obregon; a band of raiding Pawnee; and many other characters who prove, once again, that the rolling, grassy plains are not, in fact, nearly as empty of life as they look. Most of what is there is dangerous and hostile, even when faced with Tasmin's remarkable, frosty sangfroid. She is one of the strongest and most interesting of Larry McMurtry's women characters,fairly resistant to shock, whether at bloodshed, the behavior of children, or sex, and at the center of this novel of the West.

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Editorial Reviews

Howard Frank Mosher
From the Missouri Breaks to the Rocky Mountains, and the Canadian border to Mexico, no novelist since Wallace Stegner has written as well about the American West as Larry McMurtry. By Sorrow's River, volume three of McMurtry's Berrybender Narratives, is no exception. It's lively, funny, historically illuminating and, best of all, full of unforgettable individualists, from an irascible English big-game hunter, Lord Berrybender himself, to his headstrong and beautiful daughter, Tasmin.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Molina keeps the bar raised high with his latest performance of McMurtry's third Berrybender Narrative. As with his readings of the previous two volumes, Sin Killer and The Wandering Hill, Molina creates richly nuanced voices for the many characters in this Wild West tale, from the energetic and innocent young guide Kit Carson to the comically selfish old Lord Berrybender, whose pursuit of drink, fornication and wildlife to shoot is what has brought his aristocratic, idiosyncratic and self-centered British clan to the wild and unforgiving Great Plains. This installment revolves around Berrybender's eldest daughter, Tasmin. Having married and mothered a child with the stoic and sometimes brutal frontiersman Jim Snow, also known as the Sin Killer, Tasmin's heart is now drawn to their quiet and emotionally distant guide, Pomp Charbonneau. Though the story seems to lose some of its steam as it explores the nuances of Tasmin's torn-between-two-lovers quandary, Molina's pace never slows. Even when he is not breathing life into a character, his role as narrator is played with such earnest urgency that it keeps the momentum high and the listener wanting more. Simultaneous release with the S&S hardcover (Forecasts, Aug. 25, 2003). (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
One tends to think that the Great Plains of the 1830s was empty, but the wandering Berrybenders manage to meet just about everyone who was anyone at the time. This third of a four-part series suffers because there is no beginning and no end-the action is much the same as in the previous installments. Lord Berrybender, the one-legged English aristocrat, is still alive and still hunting and still randy, although his mistress's threat to tear his throat out subdues him somewhat. The old man is traveling south toward Santa Fe with his four daughters and his moronic servants, a bunch of Indians, and the ever-faithful mountain men when the group is joined by a pair of hapless European journalists in a hot-air balloon. What could have been a rather exciting event deflates quickly into the same old tragicomedy that hallmarks these works. The listener will be grateful that Alfred Molina gives his usual dazzling performance and that the pacing is good. Recommended for public libraries where the other volumes have circulated.-Barbara Perkins, formerly with Irving P.L., TX Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Third in the brutal and amusing saga of the dissolute Lord Berrybender and his lusty brood in the great American West (Sin Killer, 2002, etc.). Readers who have not been put off by McMurtry’s over-the-top (much scalping, butchering, piercing, dismemberment and spur-of-the-moment sex) take on the unsettled American frontier will be happy to follow the Berrybenders, whose numbers stay roughly constant as births in the bush balance deaths by all sorts of brutalities, as they take a big left turn from the undeveloped northern plains to head for purported comforts of Santa Fe. Berrybender, whose taste for big-game hunting seems unaffected by the loss of numerous limbs and digits, has returned his attentions to his erstwhile mistress, the distinguished cellist Venetia "Vicky" Kennet. Lady Tasmin, Berrybender’s beautiful eldest daughter, irritated by the constant disappearances of her free-range frontiersman husband Jim "Sin Killer" Snow, is now focusing her formidable energies on Pomp Charbonneau, diffident son of trapper Toussaint Charbonneau and Sacagawea (yes, that Sacagawea). There’s a liaison, but an unsatisfactory one: Pomp, although he doesn’t disappear like Jim, is nowhere near as ready to, as Tasmin delicately puts it, rut whenever Tasmin is in the mood. Into the mix float a pair of European balloon-equipped journalists on assignment and their factotum, still bleeding from the midnight loss of an ear to the Ear Taker. Numerous Indians lurk in the neighborhood, but their numbers have been suddenly and devastatingly reduced by smallpox. Indeed, the great Sioux warrior known as the Partezon, whose maraudings nearly meant the end of the saga, correctly sees aviation and the plague as theend of the way for his people and heads for the Black Hills to die. Santa Fe lies on the other side of a seemingly endless desert, but the plucky Brits and their wild American assistants walk on. The Berrybenders may be de trop, but the scenery continues to be worth the trip. Agent: Andrew Wylie
From the Publisher
"In this tale of the exploration, and exploitation, of the West, McMurtry is telling us something about our checkered past — and perhaps about our uncertain present."
People

"From the Missouri Breaks to the Rocky Mountains, and the Canadian border to Mexico, no novelist since Wallace Stegner has written as well about the American West as Larry McMurtry. By Sorrow's River is no exception. It's lively, funny, historically illuminating and, best of all, full of unforgettable individualists."
The Washington Post Book World

"By Sorrow's River is a brilliant combination of adventure and plainspoken storytelling with a bittersweet love story and a richly imagined long-gone America."
The Seattle Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743527880
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Publication date: 11/4/2003
  • Series: Berrybender Narratives Series , #3
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 8 Cassettes, 11.5 Hrs.
  • Product dimensions: 4.00 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 2.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Larry McMurtry

Alfred Molina's films include Spiderman II, Frida, Magnolia, Chocolat, Boogie Nights, The Perez Family, Maverick, Enchanted April, Not Without My Daughter, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Prick Up Your Ears. He has appeared extensively on British and American television, including the TV series Bram & Alice and Ladies' Man. Mr. Molina received a Tony Award nomination, a Drama Desk Award, and an Outer Critics Circle Award for his performance in Art on Broadway. He also performed on Broadway in Molly Sweeney and in Speed the Plow for the National Theatre in London.

Biography

Back in the late 60s, the fact that Larry McMurtry was not a household name was really a thorn in the side of the writer. To illustrate his dissatisfaction with his status, he would go around wearing a T-shirt that read "Minor Regional Novelist." Well, more than thirty books, two Oscar-winning screenplays, and a Pulitzer Prize later, McMurtry is anything but a minor regional novelist.

Having worked on his father's Texas cattle ranch for a great deal of his early life, McMurtry had an inborn fascination with the West, both its fabled history and current state. However, he never saw himself as a life-long rancher and aspired to a more creative career. He achieved this at the age of 25 when he published his first novel. Horseman, Pass By was a wholly original take on the classic western. Humorous, heartbreaking, and utterly human, this story of a hedonistic cowboy in contemporary Texas was a huge hit for the young author and even spawned a major motion picture starring Paul Newman called Hud just two years after its 1961 publication. Extraordinarily, McMurtry was even allowed to write the script, a rare honor for such a novice.

With such an auspicious debut, it is hard to believe that McMurtry ever felt as though he'd been slighted by the public or marginalized as a minor talent. While all of his books may not have received equal attention, he did have a number of astounding successes early in his career. His third novel The Last Picture Show, a coming-of-age-in-the-southwest story, became a genuine classic, drawing comparisons to J. D. Salinger and James Jones. In 1971, Peter Bogdonovich's screen adaptation of the novel would score McMurtry his first Academy award for his screenplay. Three years later, he published Terms of Endearment, a critically lauded urban family drama that would become a hit movie starring Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine in 1985.

That year, McMurtry published what many believe to be his definitive novel. An expansive epic sweeping through all the legends and characters that inhabited the old west, Lonesome Dove was a masterpiece. All of the elements that made McMurtry's writing so distinguished -- his skillful dialogue, richly drawn characters, and uncanny ability to establish a fully-realized setting -- convened in this Pulitzer winning story of two retired Texas rangers who venture from Texas to Montana. The novel was a tremendous critical and commercial favorite, and became a popular miniseries in 1989.

Following the massive success of Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry's prolificacy grew. He would publish at least one book nearly every year for the next twenty years, including Texasville, a gut-wrenching yet hilarious sequel to The Last Picture Show, Buffalo Girls, a fictionalized account of the later days of Calamity Jane, and several non-fiction titles, such as Crazy Horse.

Interestingly, McMurtry would receive his greatest notoriety in his late 60s as the co-screenwriter of Ang Lee's controversial film Brokeback Mountain. The movie would score the writer another Oscar and become one of the most critically heralded films of 2005. The following year he published his latest novel. Telegraph Days is a freewheeling comedic run-through of western folklore and surely one of McMurtry's most inventive stories and enjoyable reads. Not bad for a "minor regional novelist."

Good To Know

A miniseries based on McMurtry's novel Comanche Moon is currently in production. McMurtry co-wrote the script.

The first-printing of McMurtry's novel In a Narrow Grave is one of his most obscure for a rather obscure reason. The book was withdrawn because the word "skyscrapers" was misspelled as "skycrappers" on page 105.

McMurtry comes from a long line of farmers and ranchers. His father and eight of his uncles were all in the profession.

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    1. Hometown:
      Archer City, Texas
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 3, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Wichita Falls, Texas
    1. Education:
      B.A., North Texas State University, 1958; M.A., Rice University, 1960. Also studied at Stanford University.

Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2004

    Ongoing excellence!

    This third part of the Berrybender series continues to satisfy. (Watch out for the spoiler in the Critics Review on this page, though)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2003

    McMurtry at his Most.

    Somewhere along the line Larry McMurtry has grasped an important concept: that we can try to be the best, but in the end we can only be the most. In Lonesome Dove, McMurtry found a voice that he and his audience found enthralling. Since then, through the sequels and prequels to L.D. and the well-written but misguided lapses into modern domesticity, he has developed a unique style his readers crave, and each of the Berrybender narratives reflects more... more interesting characters, more shocking hardships and tortures, more self-reproachment, more vexation, more willingness to play with historical characters... 'By Sorrow's River' is McMurtry at his most McMurtry, so far at least, and I can't wait to see if there's anything left.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 22, 2012

    Tasmin Berrybender, the daughter of Lord Berrybender, wife of Ji

    Tasmin Berrybender, the daughter of Lord Berrybender, wife of Jim Snow aka Sin Killer, feisty, independent, sharp-tongued, and emotional, takes the forefront of this, the third of four Berrybender tales. As in many of McMurtry’s westerns and the previous two Berrybenders (Sin Killer and The Wandering Hill), the cast of characters is wildly and frequently amusingly creative. Joining Tasmin, her father, and Jim Snow are quirky folks across the spectrum, Indians (Greasy Lake, High Shoulders, The Partezan, Little Onion, and Ear Taker among others), frontiersmen drawn from history (Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, Jean (Pomp) Charbonneau), Tasmin’s sisters, and those who serve the Berrybenders or are in their traveling party. That sounds like many, but keeping them straight is no problem since they are all written so uniquely. The story continues the saga of the Berrybender family’s journey into the American west when it was unpopulated and untamed. The travelers have many adventures, some harrowing in terms of weather or adversaries, some frequently comical and heartening, such as the relationships of various couples, including more than a few references to intimacy using a variety of proper and idiomatic references to it, and more than one relationship which crosses class or ethnic lines. There is the oddball appearance of two famed European journalists traveling by hot-air balloon. Altogether, this makes for a most enjoyable trip, with setting-appropriate violence to balance all the funny characters, interchanges, and events. I look forward to book four, Folly and Glory, soon.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2003

    excellent books

    do not eat while you listen to these books they will ruin any appetite

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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