, the final volume of Cormac Mc Carthy’s Border Trilogy, binds together the separate tales of John Grady Cole from All the Pretty Horses and Billy Parham from The Crossing to create a more realistic Billy and a more mythic John Grady.
In the fall of 1952, a 20-year-old John Grady and a 28-year-old Billy Parham are working together on Mac Mc Govern’s Cross Fours Ranch in Alamogordo, New Mexico, near El Paso and its twin city, Juarez.
The ranch is a friendly and sociable place for the two men, but under the surface lies a perceptible feeling of loss on almost all sides; Mac and his father-in-law Mr.
Johnson continually mourn the loss of Margaret Johnson Mc Govern, while other stories are told of fellow rancher Oren’s failed marriage and a man named Johnny whose stubborn love for an unfaithful woman somehow caused his death.
Billy is casual enough about women, preferring to confine his alliances to the Juarez whorehouses, but on the visit that opens the novel John Grady inevitably picks out the youngest and most frightened prostitute in the room to fall in love with.
Far from the naive boy of , the John Grady four years later can do no wrong—he successfully breaks the most unpromising of horses, defeats Mac at chess, and thwarts a shady horsedealer with the same quiet stubbornness that he then directs to the search for the young girl, who has disappeared from the whorehouse where he first saw her.
He finds her at the White Lake, an expensive and foreboding brothel run by the serpentine alcahuete Eduardo.There, John Grady spends his earnings on nights with Magdalena, who despite her torturous existence finds it in her heart to fall in love with him as well.Ignoring the obvious risk he determines to save her, even as the blind pianist he calls maestro insists that “she does not belong here.Among us.” To that end, John Grady pawns his grandfather’s gun for cash and is optimistic about his plan, though Magdalena says she believes Eduardo will kill her.He tells everything to Billy, who calls him crazy but agrees to go to the White Lake and offer Eduardo 00 for purchase of the girl.Eduardo refuses out of his own twisted love for Magdalena; undeterred, John Grady proposes and fixes up a tumbledown shack into passable living quarters.