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Remember Ben Clayton

by Stephen Harrigan

Publishers Weekly Harrigan's austere latest (after Challenger Park) explores, with a dry swagger, art, secrets, and family in post-WWI America. After accomplished sculptor Gil Gilheaney is commissioned by Texas rancher Lamar Clayton to sculpt a statue of his son, Ben, who died in a battle on French soil, Gil and his daughter/assistant Maureen-an artist in her own right, though with blunted ambitions-travel from New York to the Clayton ranch to research Ben's life and work on the piece. Gil picks up quickly that there's plenty Lamar isn't telling him and becomes intrigued by Lamar's past: Lamar and his sister were kidnapped and raised by Indians, and the family of Lamar's housekeeper was massacred by Indians. Maureen, meanwhile, battles her own needs for artistic expression and independence, and a young man who was with Ben when he was killed and suffered a disfiguring injury gets pulled into the ranch's orbit. Harrigan doesn't shy from the gristle-the harshness of death on the battlefield, a lynch mob's mindless lust for destruction, screwworm flies festering in a calf's castration wound-and the secrets each character holds are grim and heartbreaking. The narrative's crushing sense of despair would be impossible to endure in the hands of a lesser writer. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Lamar Clayton, a hard-nosed rancher in west Texas with a violent past, hires a sculptor from San Antonio to create a bronze monument to Clayton's son Ben, who died fighting in World War I. Sculptor -Gilheany, sensing the opportunity to create a final masterpiece, uncovers a tragic family history of Comanche kidnappings, secrets, and guilt. Harrigan (The Gates of the Alamo) is adept at describing his territory, from a ruined mission in 1920s San Antonio to the plains of west Texas. He's also clearly at home with the process of bronze sculpture, and we closely follow the journey of Gilheany's piece from his Texas studio to a casting foundry in New York City. While ably exploring themes of artistic struggle, aging, and family conflict, the book is most riveting in the sometimes horrific chapters on war, from the Indian Wars of the late 1800s to World War I. VERDICT An engaging novel on family conflict and the artistic process; also a book that would do well with readers of Southwest history and fiction.-John R. Cecil, Austin, TX (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list *Starred Review* Like the statue at its center, Harrigan's novel is a stunning work of art resting on a solid base of heartbreak. The action ranges from the Texas plains to the devastated northern French landscape, with the presence of the violent Wild West strongly lingering. Wealthy rancher Lamar Clayton had raised his son alone after his much younger wife's death. Now Ben is dead, killed in WWI, and his taciturn father wants to memorialize him in bronze. Gi. Gilheaney, a brilliant, ambitious sculptor, accepts the commission. Gil's daughter Maureen, a talented artist herself, assists him while quietly pursuing her own dreams. To shape Ben's character into clay, they trace the dusty paths he once walked, but only his friend Arthur, a disfigured veteran, knows why Ben was so careless with his life. The story builds with determined momentum, providing a grimly vivid sense of place and deep insight into the creative process and family relationships. Harrigan's The Gates of the Alamo (2000) has become a modern classic, and his latest historical deserves similar acclaim.--Johnson, Sara. Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

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