Haywood Beatty and his brother Marion (aka Shot) have survived
the famous Christmas 1883 shootout between the Beatty Boys' Gang
and the McDade vigilantes. Both Beattys are jailed in Bastorp where
Lily, Marion's very pregnant young wife, waits for the outcome of
their trials. Haywood gets sprung, but Marion gets two years' hard
labor. And before Haywood leaves jail, Marion exacts his promise to
take care of Lily.
Looking after Lily is a burden Haywood Beatty didn't bargain
for. Only twenty years old himself, destitute and without a
respectable upbringing or trade, he keeps trying to "settle" Lily
someplace so he can get on with a new life as a cowboy.
But it's not se easy to leave Lily behind. For one thing, she
keeps coming up with what Haywood needs: A horse. A gun. Some
money. Common sense. And once Haywood has saved her from a rapist
by murdering him, once he's witnessed her bravery in the face of
childbirth and watched her raising her baby girl, Haywood
recognizes that he has fallen in love with his brother's wife.
Just as she did in her very popular first novel, Lily,
Cindy Bonner takes an old story and breathes new life into it by
creating characters so convincing and so likable that they take on
dimensions that are at once human and heroic. As Haywood struggles
to deal honorably with his brother's wife and child, we watch a boy
turn into a man.
Wash Jones wasn’t no
fancy-Dan lawyer. He wore a town suit, but it was just of
homespun and a little tattered around the edges. He had a tin
tobacco ring hanging from his vest pocket instead of the Turkish
cigars the lawyer for the State had sported. The paper collar at
Jones’s neck was unbuttoned and flapped out about his
where you’re bound?” he said, pushing himself back from his desk.
The wheels on his chair needed a squirt of oil. The squeak they
made raised the hair on my neck.
about San Antone,” I answered and Jones nodded.
shook my head. “Just an interest. I thought I might try my hand at
the cattle business.”
His eyebrows bent in the center. “Just so you behave
stood up to leave and he studied on me for a few more seconds.
“I’ve a brother in Parker County,” he said, “with some farmland he
can’t tend to. Got the backstrain and can’t go full-speed anymore.
Needs a good man working for him, if ever you’re
thanked him and we shook hands. He pulled the tin ring from his
breast pocket and gave me his cigarette makings, which I greatly
appreciated. I was all the way out the door and headed down to the
livery stable before the notion struck me that Wash Jones had just
called me a good man.
Now, I’d been called a
great many things in my life. Murderer, thief, coward, outlaw, even
bandit, but nobody had ever said I was a good man.
Not to my face or behind my back either, so far as I knew. And
although I didn’t give one hoot nor holler about ever hopping clods
behind a bull-tongue plow so long as I lived, Wash Jones saying I
was a good man made it some easier for me to dodge the hateful
glances I got out on the street, and to fend off one or two abusive
remarks made under somebody or other’s breath as I passed
bought a light wagon with a spare wheel and a broke-down pulling
mule named Sassy. I also bought what all provisions I thought we’d
need for the eighty-some miles to San Antonio. By the time I got a
cigarette rolled and lit, the first pull of smoke giving me a dizzy
head I hadn’t enjoyed for nearly six months, Lily was coming out of
the jailhouse wiping at her cheeks.
didn’t make a comment about the wagon and mule, or about Mollie
tied on behind. She didn’t glance to notice the box of stores in
the back, or say one thing to me at all. Her face was puffed and
splotchedy, and she looked to me near to being wrought up into a
fit of desperation. She held out her hand, like she was the queen
of Sheba, for me to help her up onto the high-seat. Like I said
before, I wasn’t much for comforting a person, especially not a
female person, and so I ignored her hand and took her by the waist,
swinging her off her feet and up into the wagon.
was heavier that I’d thought, and I had to give her backside a
shove once her feet cleared the railing. She stumbled but caught
herself before anything tragical happened, like her falling out and
dashing the baby in her belly on the street. Shot would of never
forgive me for an accident like that.
gave the jailhouse one final look, feeling glad to be going, but
irritable at Shot for heaping all this responsibility on me. Then I
got up beside Lily and took the lines. I popped them down on the
mule’s rump and we started off.
ain’t gonna tell him goodbye?” she said, turning to stare back at
the red brick jailhouse.
did.” I cracked the lines again, and whistling through my teeth
said, “Giddup, mule.”
seem to matter how much I throttled her, that old Sassy had her
mind set to take it at a walk. If it’s one thing in this world I
hate, it’s a godamighty mule.
Bonner’s novel is good stuff: no pretense, no preciousness, but an
intelligent, humane story about a guy with too much energy and too
little sense. It’s 1884, and young Haywood Beatty is stuck tending
his brother’s steely, brainy, pregnant wife, Lily. Haywood drags
Lily through a thousand schemes and most of Texas, and of course,
falls for her. Though the plot’s hokey (a testosterone-addled scamp
purified by love) Bonner makes it real enough that you ache. And
pain and joy alike are bent slightly through Haywood’s wryness: he
disdains a woman’s funeral “wide-brimmed hatty hat” and describes a
newborn’s looks with, “Ears seemed kind of big and flapping out.”
His earnestness is cumulatively funny: Single sentences are clever,
but 20 pages’ worth are delicious. Bonner’s people are delicious
too – mulish, funny, bleak, and real. A -- Kate Wilson
for Entertainment Weekly