Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Cities of the Plain” as Want to Read:
Cities of the Plain
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Cities of the Plain (The Border Trilogy #3)

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  11,279 ratings  ·  644 reviews
In this final volume of The Border Trilogy, two men marked by the boyhood adventures of All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing now stand together, in the still point between their vivid pasts and uncertain futures, to confront a country changing or already changed beyond recognition.

In the fall of 1952, John Grady Cole and Billy Parham--nine years apart in age, yet with a
ebook, 304 pages
Published August 11th 2010 by Vintage (first published 1998)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I met Cormac McCarthy and he transcribed our conversation about Cities of the Plain:

The author asked, Whad'ya think about the book?
The last in the trilogy?
That's it.
It was alright, Jason said.
What was alright?
Cities of the Plain
What specifically?
The simple language and the economy of words and the lack of punctuation, quotations especially. How you made simple things like chores seem interesting and wonderful.
That's fair. It's actually harder to write like that than you think.
I bet.
Was it bett
The Border Trilogy finale, the ending--at least *an* ending.

I greatly enjoyed Cities of the Plain. The book was much more dialogue-driven than the previous two--moreso than most McCarthy. It read quite like a screenplay (honestly I'm surprised there's no adaptation in the works--no Matt Damon please). Landscape descriptions, landscape as a character itself, is toned down, replaced with scene and scenario, the near-exciting humdrum of cowboy ranching life, a moribund profession and way of life. B
Chiara Pagliochini
« La donna gli diede un colpetto su una mano. Era tutta nodi, cicatrici lasciate dalle funi, macchie impresse dal sole e dagli anni. Le vene in rilievo la legavano al cuore. C’era quanto bastava perché gli uomini vi scorgessero una mappa. C’era abbondanza di segni e meraviglie, da farne un paesaggio. Da farne un mondo. »

Sfogliare l’ultima pagina, leggere le ultime righe, chiudere il libro e stringerselo forte forte contro il petto, con la stessa sensazione di quando si guarda rimpicciolire in lo
Marco Tamborrino
Le storie che ci parlano più intensamente hanno la capacità di sopraffare chi le racconta, e cancellare dalla memoria lui e le sue ragioni.

La monumentalità di questo libro, unita a quella dei due precedenti, fanno della Trilogia della Frontiera un'opera destinata a durare nei secoli a venire, un'opera destinata ad affascinare e straziare i lettori. Drammatico, questo ultimo capitolo. Definitivo, ma immenso come i precedenti. Unisce i due protagonisti, ma ne ricalca le evidenti differenze. Ciò mi
I was really surprised at just how talkative this book is. It's got more dialogue than anything else Mcarthy's written. Which makes sense because this book evokes not just single lonely lives, but an entire, lonely lifestyle. Cities of the Plain partakes easily of the typical tropes of American westerns, doomed love, the sense of loss for an increasingly marginalized and antiquated cowboy culture at odds with a modernizing west, what have you. But it's much more than just a thin genre piece beca ...more
This has been one hell of a winter of McCarthy for me. Starting in early January I began his award-winning Border Trilogy with much trepidation. Having previously only read his Pulitzer-winning father-son dystopian nightmare, The Road, and found it severely lacking, I was curious to see if McCarthy's previous works were worthy of the acclaim in which they are held. After three weeks of being immersed in one of the most bleak interpretations of humanity and exposure to tragedy that would make eve ...more
When you’re a kid you have these notions about how things are goin to be, Billy said. You get a little older and you pull back some on that. I think you just wind up tryin to minimize the pain. Anyway this country aint the same. Nor anything in it. The war changed everthing. I dont think people even know it yet.

The final chapter in McCarthy's Border Trilogy, Cities of the Plain brings together our two sumbitches, John Grady Cole and Billy Parham, cowboying on a ranch in border Texas in the 1950s
They drove on. Rounding a curve with a steep bank to the right of the road there was a sudden white flare and a solid whump of a sound. The truck veered, the tires squealing. When they got stopped they were halfway off the road into the bar ditch.

What in the hell, said Troy. What in the hell.

A large owl lay cruciform across the driver's windshield of the truck. The laminate of the glass was belled in softly to hold him and his wings were spread wide and he lay in the concentric rings and rays of
This book is somewhere between three and four stars. It earns this rating because it is not nearly as good as "All the Pretty Horses," but it's still a great book.

The one major disappointment with this story was its lack of powerful, beautiful, and riveting poetic form. In ATPH and Crossing, the poetry that goes into describing the scenes, people and emotions is just heartbreakingly good. In this story, however, it is noticeably absent until near the end of the book.

The positive: he meant to wri
If I had one complaint about this book, which is the freaking PIETA OF LITERATURE, okay, it's ... no, never mind. I can't complain. I just have to weep. It's perfect. Damn it's miserable.
Ned Mozier
John Grady Cole and his good friend (and spiritual brother) Billy are the last of a dying breed, young cowboys hanging onto the life of a rancher in Texas. This tale is deliciously and slow, with dialogue as simple and true as a home cooked meal. There are no quotations around the dialogue and the frequent use of Spanish is emblematic McCarthy, but I got used to it quickly. The souls of horses and the workings of their brains is a frequent topic amongst the boys and the older men. The desolate p ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The last book in the author's Border Trilogy in which the protagonists of the first two novels have met and are now working on a ranch together; a 10 years older Billy Parham and a not much older John Grady Cole. Both act as a catharsis on one another, with the older, more worldly and less idealic Parham trying to reign in Cole's utterly uninhibited and potentially self-destructive energies. From the very beginning the personalities of the characters and the texture of the book's settings leap o ...more
This a fitting end to the epic Border Trilogy. It didn't end happily-ever-after, in fact I don't think that any of McCarthy's stories end that way, but all are more true to life than we would like to admit. The world and our places in it are often messy and violent.

All of the stories of his that I have read are salted with wisdom, here is a example from Cities of the Plain, this from a conversation between John Gray and his blind friend in a discussion about padrinos (godparents), the blind fri
It’s probably not a secret at this point that I’m a McCarthy groupie. These books are just so good. This third of the loosely-defined Border Trilogy novels bring together John Grady Cole of All the Pretty Horses and Billy Parham of The Crossing, who are now working on the same ranch in West Texas. Neither of the men’s histories are mentioned in any great detail in this book, but I feel like it would be a horrible shame to read this book without understanding the back-story from the previous two ...more
Let me set the record straight for this overrated novel, you see, McCarthy set the seeds of this novels failure because he wrote too good a novel in the first place.


With the strength of 'All the Pretty Horses', I continued to read the Border Trilogy and, while 'The Crossing' had some incredible moments (especially its climactic end), 'Cities of the Plain' does not reflect McCarthy's best at all. His fabled lyricism is there in parts, but not wholly developed. His moments of philos
I want to start off by saying that a book by Cormac McCarthy is automatically like a bazillion times better than 99% of the other books I could be reading. But I didn't love this one (hence the 3 stars), and here's why. It didn't really surprise me or take me anywhere new, at least as far as its plot was concerned. This is a novel about a cowboy (John Grady Cole, of All the Pretty Horses) who falls in love with a Mexican prostitute and tries to free her so he can marry her. As soon as this plotl ...more
This book brought together the theme of the whole series, and brought the events of the previous books into focus. Although I'd enjoyed the previous two books, this conclusion gave me a new appreciation for the whole series. The Border trilogy is a meditation on the border between the United States and Mexico back in the final days of 'cowboys', and shows Americans struggling with survival in Mexico, and struggling with the idea of Mexico, and the idea of the U.S.

It's naturalistic in the sense
All written words, I believe are autobiographical, in that they are a product of the writer and all that he is in this point in time. Yet, the previous novels I have read never allowed me to come as close to McCarthy as this one did. So, while "Blood Meridian" was awe-ful in its scope and its implacable, remorseless march to an ending worthy of the greatest of the Greek tragedies, this novel was the most approachable, as well as the most hopeful, of his novels that I have read to date.
McCarthy i
"Men speak of blind destiny, a thing without scheme or purpose. But what sort of destiny is that? Each act in this world from which there can be no turning back has before it another, and it another yet. In a vast and endless net. Men imagine that the choices before them are theirs to make. But we are free to act only upon what is given. Choice is lost in the maze of generations and each act in that maze is itself an enslavement for it voids every alternative and binds one ever more tightly into ...more
David B
Billy Parham and John Grady Cole, the protagonists of Cormac McCarthy's preceding books in his Border Trilogy, are friends working on the same ranch in 1950s Texas. The romantic John Grady falls in love with a Mexican prostitute and decides to marry her, against the wishes of her possessive pimp. The more pragmatic and jaded Billy feels compelled to aid the couple despite his misgivings. The stage is set for a tragedy.

Prepare to have your heart broken. McCarthy presents expertly realized charact
Kirk Smith
I may be rating this book a little higher than necessary, but is very good, and especially as the last of his Trilogy Series. I read all three back to back, and normally I could be "cowboyed" out. But only because Cormac is so damn good, I want more horses, more open range, more lonely destructive adventure, Yes I want More.
Cormac is a poet that writes prose and the results are hearty and filling. When your flesh is filleted in a knife fight, the blood fills up your boots. Details. I give you
Like finding yourself back in the arms of old friends. It’s why I saved the book for so long, because I knew it was going to be so good to savor: my two favorite McCarthy characters, Billy Parham and John Grady Cole, together at last. Too good to be true. It never goes huge in scope. It stays small, which is perfect. And the epilogue veers a little unnecessarily, but who could care less? I’d sit and listen to John Grady and Billy talk all day long, and that’s what the rest of the book is.

(It al
Amanda McGough
Another heart breaking western tale from McCarthy. Having read the first two books in the Border trilogy, I had a good suspicion of what would happen in Cities of the Plain. Even when my predictions were proven true, I was still caught off guard and moved emotionally. What I love about McCarthy's writing is his ability to use minimalist and direct writing that sucks you in and places in the character's life and struggles.
Derek J
Brings the trilogy to a full and sad close, kindly echoing the passing of cowboy life. This was foreshadowed at the beginning of Pretty Horses when John Grady Cole buried his father and forfeited his land to modernity, as it was in his chosen exile to Old Mexico and that of the wolf and the wolf's keeper and tormentors in Crossings. The land, weather, birds and distant lightning remain, indelibly re-created again, and again (and again!) through McCarthy's crisp, tactile, at times crushing prose ...more
Tim LaVoie
"It had been eaten to the bones and the bones had been dragged about over the ground. The ribcage lay with its curved tines upturned on the gravel plain like some great carnivorous plant brooding in the barren dawn." A satisfying conclusion to the Border Trilogy. There's not a lot to say about McCarthy's writing that hasn't been said before, but his prose is as electric here as in his other classics. No quotation marks, no commas, pages of untranslated Spanish, no apostrophes, lots of old West s ...more
Rick Boyer
4.5 stars. Maybe the best volume in the Border Trilogy. A beautiful and magnificent story. McCarthy has a way of bringing out the depth and humanity of his characters that really touches the soul. It's a splendid piece of writing. The only times that he loses me a little is when he detours from the story to wax philosophical... such as in the epilogue of this book. At times it feels forced... like he is intentionally trying to be profound. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't... but it's sti ...more
Dear McCarthy,

Please, for the love of gods, embrace the freakin' quotation mark.



No, but seriously, his lack of quotations can get pretty damn confusing at times. Having to stop and count off to tell who is talking? Not fun.

This book brings together the main characters of Pretty Horses and The Crossing. I like their juxtaposition because they're both rather broken. This focuses more of Grady and his romanticism but Billy places a pretty pivotal role in the end. Without giving too mu
Bill Krieger
This book is the third in Cormac's Border Trilogy about cowboys and Mexico and the old west and such:
All the Pretty Horses (1992) - 4 bill-stars
The Crossing (1994) - 4 bill-stars
Cities of the Plain (1998) - 2 bill-stars

The first two books of the trilogy were really, really great. This 3rd book is not strong. The beautiful writing style is there, but the plot is glacial and ultimately uninteresting. Cormac borrowed the two lead characters from the first two books (John Grady Cole and Billy Par
My favorite of McCarthy's books, I have yet to read 'The Crossing'.

The epilogue is unfortunate. It's like something Borges would write - on a day he drank too many cups of yerba mate and was feeling impatient and confused. At least the pimp in this book has a philosophy that is well-organized and articulated. But Billy ending up under an interstate bridge in Arizona felt right, as well as sad.

The rest is fantastic, if you love old codgers telling violent, hilarious tales. The jackrabbits story r
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • In the Night Season: A Novel
  • Revolution #9
  • Roughneck
  • Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories
  • The Dick Gibson Show
  • Zeke and Ned
  • The Illusionist
  • Men in Black
  • Joe Hill
  • Furnace
  • Good Enough to Dream
  • The Devil's Own Work
  • Provinces of Night
  • The Intruder
  • Waiting
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • Survivor
  • The Counterlife
Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels in the Southern Gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres and has also written plays and screenplays. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

His earlier Blood M
More about Cormac McCarthy...
The Road No Country for Old Men Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy, #1) The Crossing (The Border Trilogy, #2)

Share This Book

“Our waking life's desire to shape the world to our convenience invites all manner of paradox and difficulty.” 39 likes
“He sat a long time and he thought about his life and how little of it he could ever have foreseen and he wondered for all his will and all his intent how much of it was his doing.” 21 likes
More quotes…