In All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy begins his Border Trilogy with a coming of age tale that is a departure from the bizarre richness and mysterious violence of his early novels, yet in many ways preserves the mystery and the richness in a more understated form. Like Blood Meridian, this novel follows a young man’s journey to the regions of the unknown. John Grady Cole, more heroic than the protagonists of McCarthy’s earlier novels, confronts the evil that is an inescapable part of the universe as well as the evil that grows out of his own ignorance and pride. His story is told in a style often restrained and simple, embedded with lyrical passages that echo his dreams and memory.
In the spring of 1948 on a small Texas ranch, sixteen year old John Grady Cole attends the funeral of his grandfather, with whom he has lived since his parents’ separation. The grandfather’s ranch has been left to John Grady’s mother, a small-time actress who has no interest in it and will sell it. John Grady’s father, psychologically damaged by World War II and now physically ill as well, tells his son goodbye. With no apparent future in Texas, and sensing the threat of the new era to the traditional life he values, John Grady urges his old friend Rawlins to accompany him to Mexico. There, John Grady will find that his innocence, or ignorance, will ultimately lead him close to destruction.
It was a bestseller, and it won both the U.S. National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. It is also the first of McCarthy’s “Border Trilogy”. The book was adapted as a 2000 film, starring Matt Damon and Penélope Cruz, and directed by Billy Bob Thornton.
The Border Trilogy continues with Volume Two, The Crossing, and concludes with the third volume, Cities of the Plain.