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All the Pretty Horses is a novel about a teenager in the late 1940′s who sets off to Mexico with his friend. John Grady Cole is the product of generations of Texas ranchers; ranching is what he knows and does best. His grandfather has just died, his parents are separated, and he finds himself cut off from the life he always imagined for himself. He ventures across the border in search of a new life.
He travels with his friend Lacey Rawlins. Together they meet a young teen who calls himself Jimmy Blevins and allow the boy to travel with them. This decision colors the rest of the events of the novel and leads to tragic situations. Their friendship and the loyalty that accompanies it is tested again and again.
The friendship between Cole and Rawlins may be one of the best male bonds I’ve seen portrayed. Their personalities clash. They often disagree. They have sparse conversations about deeper matters such as love and God. It isn’t overly sentimental but rather matter of fact. I am a man. That is my horse. You are my friend. I won’t quit you. Again and again, I won’t quit you. Even when one disagrees with the other. Even when it puts one in danger. I won’t quit you. A similar line was more recently made famous in the movie Brokeback Mountain, but I found it much more moving here. Here it is self-less.
Cole finds himself falling for the beautiful, blue-eyed daughter of a Mexican ranch owner. Their affair is passionate ,star-crossed, and another source of discord between Cole and Rawlins.
What I found most astonishing throughout the whole novel was how young the boys were. 16-years-old. I would keep forgetting as I read along through the hardship, the tragedies, the frightening danger, murder, the love gained, and the love lost. It seems so adult. In a modern society where adolescence extends well into the mid-twenties, the maturity of Cole is impressive.
I don’t know that my 16-year-old self would have stood a chance in the same situations. I do know that I wouldn’t have had any trouble saying yes to Mr. John Grady Cole. Rowr. Move over Mr. Darcy. We have a new literary crush to add to the list.
*Yes, I know he’s only 16-years-old now. This was the first novel of McCarthy’s Border triology. I understand that Cole reappears in the third novel as an older man. So there.
**You can see my review on Pajiba here.