What you might think of as a blessing is often a curse, and if you’re going to pick that curse up and put it in your pocket, do so fully, and don’t look back.
These are words that might have been helpful to Llewelyn Moss before he went out hunting antelope one hot afternoon. While following the antelope herd on foot, he comes across the horrific remains of a drug deal gone wrong. Several trucks out in the middle of the Texas desert, shot full of holes, blood and bodies all around, and a big block of heroin in the back. There is one man still alive, barely, and it seems he’s been there awhile. Clearly in need of help, all he asks for is Agua. Moss doesn’t have any water, cannot help. He follows a trail of footsteps and blood, eventually coming across the body of a man, with a suitcase full of money. Lots of money. Over two million dollars in used cash. Even though there’s no one there to see him, he knows that taking this money is not the answer to his prayers, but the beginning of a nightmare. He knows that money like that doesn’t come without strings attached, that someone will be looking for it eventually. But he takes it anyway. That’s his first mistake, putting the curse in his pocket.
His second mistake is in looking back. He goes home, puts the money under his bed, has a beer, has sex with his young wife, all the while troubled by the thought of the Mexican in the truck, begging for water. He wakes in the middle of the night, and ignoring the voice in his head, screaming at him to stay put, not be an idiot, he’s going to get himself killed, he takes a jug of water, climbs in his truck, and goes to take pity on the man he found.
Thus begins the hunt of Llwyelyn Moss, the unfortunate man who comes across $2.4 million in No Country For Old Men, a story where the action is described in third person, while the conscience and meaning is found in the first person narrative words of Sheriff Bell. Bell is the sheriff of the small town where this blood bath of a drug deal took place, and he considers it his duty to protect his constituents, which right now means finding Moss before Chigurh (rhymes with sugar) does. Chigurh is a psychopathic killer who has been hired to find Moss and bring the money back, no questions asked about who or how many people die in the process.
No Country‘s author, Cormac McCarthy, paints a vibrant picture using sparse words. The world he visits upon us is bleak and exceedingly violent, yet not gratuitously so. The bleakness is tempered by a bit of hope, no matter how small. The violence is balanced out by the goodness of the sheriff in his pursuit, as well as by the very real love that both he and Moss have for their wives.
No Country for Old Men was not what I would call a fun read, but it was a quick page turner of a novel, the kind of book that you don’t want to put down, because you need to know what is going to happen next. I’ve only read one other book by McCarthy, The Road, and while I liked No Country quite a bit, in my mind there’s no comparison between the two. The Road drew me in and broke my heart and wrung me out. No Country simply drew me in and kept me interested. Still, one could do far worse, and I highly recommend it.
The film version of No Country for Old Men has been tempting me via the On Demand feature of our cable for awhile now. I’ve been waiting until I finished the book to read it, so this might be a good time.