Disclaimer: Penguin Random House sent me the following trilogy to review. All opinions about these books are my own.
I am not one to turn down free books, even if they are a genre I might not typically read. That is where I found myself when Penguin reached out to ask if I would review the final book in the Kerning Family trilogy by Michael McGarrity. I replied saying I was willing to review the book in question but that I had not read the first two books. They offered to send me all three.
So last month I found myself diving into a Western series that I probably would not have given a second glance. Here are my thoughts.
First up in the trilogy is Hard Country. This book introduces us to the first of the Kerning cowboys who are attemping to build lives for themselves in the wild west, but they are only managing to scratch out a miserly living. In this book we are introduced to the first two generations of Kerney men. This book was fascinating in its look into cowboys and the early United States spanning the years of 1875-1918, but I had a hard time getting into this book as there was very little dialogue. The abruptness of the difficult things that happened during this book was a bit shocking, and left me with more questions than answers. Overall I wish there was more character development of this old, forgotten generation.
The second book, Backlands, introduces us to Matthew, a third generation Kerney cowboy. This book has more character development and I began to get a better understanding of who this family was. I don't know if this was intentional on the part of the author, but as the books developed and crossed decades, the language of the book became freer. Almost as if the late 1800s and early 1900s were too difficult for the people to waste breath telling their stories. This second book is more about the relationships that developed within the family and how the past continued to shape their decisions in the present. This was my favorite book of the series and made me anxious to read more.
And the final installment of the trilogy, The Last Ranch, introduces Kevin, the fourth generation Kerney. In this book we see relationships being mended between generations. Kevin Kerney brings us into a more recent time period and the relationships and language describing the relationships gets even looser. I closed out this trilogy right before July 4th and it made an impression on me as I thought about how much our country has changed over the last 240 years. Within the span of a few generations our lives are so different from our forefathers. It was also fascinating reading about these men who fought in so many different wars – Cuba, WWI, WWII and finally Vietnam. Those glimpses of war and love for country is not something I think about in my day-to-day life.
The author has a series of books about Kevin Kerney (written in the 90s). This trilogy felt like a prequel to that series and I have to be honest and say that I wasn't a fan that the final book wasn't neatly wrapped up. I probably won't continue with the series, but if you are a fan of westerns and want a long-standing series (longer than a trilogy) to read, I think you would enjoy these books. I enjoyed the historical parts and I think the author was well researched.
I gave all three books 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. I enjoyed them and they are definitely books I would recommend to my dad and anyone else I know who loves westerns or historical fiction.
Here is a sampling of what I've been reading online lately:
10 Rules of Easy Entertaining via A Cup of Jo
How to Not Take Things Personally via Design for Mankind
The Internet is Making Us Dumb via Salon
The End of Reflection via The New York Times
In Praise of "Scruff Hospitality" via Mother Nature Network
The Problem for Obama via The Telegraph
From 80s Latchkey Kid to Helicopter Parent via CNN.com
Why Constant Learners All Embrace the 5-Hour Rule via inc.com
Thoughts on Being American via Fresh Off The Grid
Notes from the Child-Full Life via Outside Online