This is a great novel, but when you read reviews of it such as http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/12/07/home/mcmurtry-show.html you begin to wonder why it is and how it is. What is it that makes this novel so affecting? It is deeply sad and moving, but also quite life affirming. The story itself, as well as the setting, is not promising. Nothing happens. Thalia, a one-horse town in the middle of nowhere, is grim and bleak. Maybe it’s the characters, who all labour beneath that universal human destiny, that draw the reader in. Or maybe it’s the slightly folksy way the story is told, where the omniscient narrator has a distinctive voice and character, one who is just as caught up in the story and how it is turning out for the central characters as the reader is. A great read.