This is the story of the Whitelaws, a family whose values are as far flung as the territory they helped settle, and whose most recent generations have pioneered the landscape of dysfunction. The patriarch, Sunny Jim, exerts his perverse control even posthumously, by means of a last will and testament that binds the family fortune to a marriage that ought, by general consent, to be rent asunder. The charms of this particular son-in-law, lately released from prison, are potent if short-lived; Evelyn Whitelaw, his estranged wife, is quite literally bedevilled by them. And as her mother and sister court this twisted inheritance, her own yearnings point toward a way of life once habitual on the western plains but now embodied only by Bill Champion, the family's ranch foreman and Evelyn's one true compass. The Cadence of Grass is at once an elegy and a masterpiece of savage comedy from one of the most compelling novelists writing today.
Place exerts the power of destiny in these ten stories of lives uncannily recognisable and unforgettably strange: a boy makes a surprising discovery skating at night on Lake Michigan; an Irish clan in Massachusetts gathers at the bedside of its dying matriarch; a battered survivor of the glory days of Key West washes up on other shores.
Several of the stories unfold in Big Sky country, McGuane's signature landscape: a father tries to buy his adult son out of virginity; a convict-turned-cowhand finds refuge at a ranch in ruination; a couple makes a fateful drive through the perilous gorge of the title story before parting ways.
McGuane's people are seekers, beguiled by the land's beauty and myth, compelled by the fantasy of what a locale can offer, forced to reconcile dream and truth.
The stories of Gallatin Canyon are alternately comical, dark, and poignant. Rich in the wit, compassion, and matchless language for which McGuane is celebrated, they are the work of a master.