Waller here extends The Bridges of Madison County franchise by focusing on the son of photographer Robert Kincaid, the original book's protagonist. Master carpenter Carlisle McMillan is disgusted by the big-city developmental mind-set of forsaking quality for quantity to turn a quick buck; he becomes restless, traveling throughout America and settling at last in the small town of Salamander, SD, home to sacred Indian burial grounds and the striking and mysterious Susanna Benteen. Drawing on the caring craftsmanship instilled in him by his surrogate father, Cody Marx, McMillan transforms a ramshackle house into a home only to find himself fending off government plans to build a highway through his property. Waller's tale leisurely meanders through the various lives that McMillan touches with the requisite pulling of the heartstrings. The abrasive attitudes of the townsfolk-along with the corruption of local politicians and businesspeople-serve as a counterpoint to the apparently faultless McMillan. Pat as it is, this novel will be in demand owing to the popularity of Waller's previous Kincaid titles. Recommended for all popular fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/05.]-Joy St. John, Henderson Dist. P.L., NV Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Waller (Puerto Vallarta Squeeze, 1995, etc.) brings schmaltz to another plane with this tale of a small prairie town threatened by evil highway developers. One of the few surprises here is that the setting-the tiny burg of Salamander, S.D.-is far from idealized. Instead of the expected portrait of hardy Midwestern folk fighting tough times and bad weather with heartland pluck, we get a caustic handful of farmers griping about big government while pocketing their subsidy checks and watching their town dry up and start to blow away. Into this landscape of no expectations comes Carlisle McMillan, a bookish California carpenter with a vaguely hippy air and looks that set the womenfolk's hearts aflutter. With his hardscrabble, educated idealism and rough-hewn good looks, he's like Jesus with a libido. Carlisle buys a rundown shack on the outskirts of town and sets about renovating it, which provides the bulk of the drama for about the first half of the story. Sadly, that's much more interesting than the melodramatic complications that follow. Once Carlisle finishes his shack-filled with gorgeous little handcrafted objets d'art, as well as not one but eventually two nubile local women, wouldn't you know-he has the luck to find a rare species of hawk living nearby. The hawks become an issue once the government decides to run a six-lane highway right through his land. The townspeople, worried that Carlisle and his endangered birds are going to stall the highway (which they've been hoodwinked into thinking is an economic necessity), launch a campaign of intimidation, which proves far less interesting than the mundane details of how he fixed it up his house. Swinging from renovation chic toantidevelopment polemic, Waller stops along the way for some hackneyed business about an Indian sacred site nearby. About half a book, and pretty thin at that.