What happens when Teddy Gibbs returns from L.A. to her family’s ranch in New Mexico to care for her mother, only to find it necessary to protect her family’s land from a clan of nudist balloonists and corrupt casino developers? What happens when she has the cojones but perhaps not the skill to act as her own attorney? Naturally, mayhem and madness ensue.
As I began Bruce Hoppe's Don't Let All the Pretty Days Get By, I thought the storyline seemed implausible and it was slow going for the first 50 pages or so. By then, however, I found myself believing, thanks to a tight story, diverse characters, witty banter, and rich commentary on the state of government, environmentalism and even on the nature (and usefulness) of outlaws. It's a page-turner from that point on.
On Hoppe’s website he quotes Mark Twain as saying, "The truth must be told through humor... otherwise people will kill you." He does a great job of having his characters address a variety of western life’s dilemmas in a humorous and original manner. As a bonus for history buffs, a philosophical Billy the Kid makes an appearance.
Hoppe has a gripping command of language, writing literary prose interspersed with dialect. His characters are colorful, sympathetic, and well developed, including a senator who claims to channel his dead predecessor among others. The dialog is fast paced and clever, but the novel is not without its shortcomings.
Parts of the book are fraught with so much action that I found myself wishing it had come with a fast-forward button. A literary action novel is an interesting concept, but at times it was a little too light on the literary and a little too heavy on the action.
Additionally, the protagonist had gone to college and begun a career in L.A, yet she generally spoke like Ellie May Clampett. Being from rural Indiana, I understand how dialect is infectious upon returning home, but in one scene she’s speaking at the state legislature, and I found myself wondering why on earth she wouldn’t know how to speak proper English at a time like that.
On the nitpicky side there are a couple of typos, which is unfortunately common in self-published novels.
It is a fun read though, a good story with many interesting and quotable ideas such as, “It has always been the need of the timid to prove passion fatally flawed.” While Hoppe is no Edward Abbey or John Nichols, if you liked The Monkey Wrench Gang or The Milagro Beanfield War, you just might like Don’t Let All the Pretty Days Get By.