Review: Backlands by Michael McGarrity (Belinda’s review)

backlandsBacklands: A Novel of the American West
written by Michael McGarrity
published by Dutton/Penguin Group

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.

Did I enjoy this book: 

I thought Mr. McGarrity did an especially nice job of developing his characters in the book. I understand it’s the second in a series; I haven’t read the first book, but had no problem picking up the story line.


This story begins in the 1920s, survives the Great Depression, and ends with the Second World War: McGarrity covers a lot of ground in five hundred pages. That’s probably why the book seemed to drag on so long for me.


I thought a huge conflict was brewing about 40% through the book when the main character’s trustee told him, “You’ll be a very well-off young man . . . I’ve leveraged the stock by buying it on margin . . .” Knowing that the Great Depression was right around the corner, I was bracing for the worst. But the book just breezed through the Depression with no single climax or resolution that I could sink my teeth into.


I did see a huge difference in Patrick’s character from the beginning to the end. I didn’t understand why he changed… maybe just old age.


Even in a series, I like a book to contain all the elements that a novel should. I think Mr. McGarrity might be saving some of his big moments for the last book.

Would I recommend it: Knowing that it’s long and what it’s about, if it still sounds interesting to you, then yes.  There’s a huge audience for people who like this kind of old West, historical literature.


About the book – from Goodreads: An expansive, epic tale like Philipp Meyer’s The Son, and in the wonderful storyteller vein of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, McGarrity’s Backlands showcases his keen eye for historical detail, awe-inspiring scenery, and the bitter harshness of life on the last vestiges of the twentieth-century frontier West.

Michael McGarrity returns with the second installment of his sweeping, richly authentic New York Times bestselling American West trilogy set in the raw, untrammeled New Mexico backlands during the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and World War II.

Hard Country, the first novel in the Kerney family trilogy and the debut prequel to his national bestselling Kevin Kerney crime novels, was critically acclaimed for its authentic, gritty realism; its sprawling, engrossing story; and its compelling, engaging characters. An instant hit on several national bestseller lists, Hard Countrycontinues to attract an overwhelmingly positive response from critics, booksellers, and readers.

Backlands continues the story of Patrick Kerney; his ex-wife, Emma; and their young son, Matthew, shortly after the tragic battlefield death of their eldest son, CJ, at the end of World War I. Scarred by the loss of an older brother he idolized, estranged from a father he barely knows, and deeply troubled by the failing health of a mother he adores, eight-year-old Matthew is suddenly and irrevocably forced to set aside his childhood and take on responsibilities far beyond his years. When the world spirals into the Great Depression and drought settles like a plague over the nation, Matt must abandon his own dreams to salvage the Kerney ranch. Plunged into a deep trough of dark family secrets, hidden crimes, broken promises, and lies, Matt must struggle to survive on the unforgiving, sun-blasted Tularosa Basin.