The Pretty Horses


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by Cormac McCarthy

Is it just my ebook version, but there are no chapters in this book, nor are there any quotations, so kind of hard to tell who is talking to whom. Is it just my copy or is that how the book is? This is my 1st McCarthy book, so i'm not sure if this is his style or not. Thomas O'Neil Its definitely McCarthy's style, and I'm not sure if this is true or not, but I'd read that he simply doesn't like tarnishing the page with ugly blots …more Its definitely McCarthy's style, and I'm not sure if this is true or not, but I'd read that he simply doesn't like tarnishing the page with ugly blots and marks.

Could have just imagined reading that, though. See all 7 questions about All the Pretty Horses…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews.

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Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. May 15, Kemper rated it really liked it Shelves: modern-lit , , western. After his grandfather dies, the ranch is being sold off. With no where else to go, John and his best friend Lacey Rawlins ride off for Mexico. Along the way they hook up with a runaway kid who is nothing but bad news. Or saying that Blood Meridian is just a western. View all 17 comments. The first seventy-five percent of this brooding, terse and darkly mesmerizing ranching tale is glorious, towering over the intersection of storytelling and language.

The last twenty-five percent grows loquacious and protracted, breaking the fever and bringing the novel up short of being one of the best I've read, but it gets close. San Angelo, Texas in Sixteen-year-old John Grady Cole has grown up working his patriarchal grandfather's ranch in Tom Green County, raised by Luisa, the Cole ranch's cook, after his theatrical actress mother left him at six months and his gambler father put in only fleeting appearances.

When John Grady's grandfather dies, the ranch is passed to his mother, who makes clear her intention to sell it. Taciturn, hard working and fluent in Spanish, with some money saved and an exceptionally keen eye for horses, John Grady receives sympathies from the family attorney and a brand new Hamley Formfitter saddle from his father.

He knows he's on his own now. John Grady lights out for old Mexico to find work. Along for the journey is his loyal, pragmatic seventeen-year-old friend Lacey Rawlins, who despite speaking considerably less Spanish than John Grady does speak more English, pondering the afterlife and singing on the ride down. Stopping for breakfast in Pandale on their way toward the Pecos River, the pair realize they're being followed.

They confront a thirteen-year-old kid astride a magnificent horse who offers the name Jimmy Blevins. The kid claims to be sixteen and is clearly on the run. He has no money, no food and despite giving Rawlins several occasions to abandon him once they cross into Mexico, John Grady is unable or unwilling to. When they got back to the cottonwoods Blevins was gone. Rawlins sat looking over the barren dusty countryside. He reached in his pocket for his tobacco. I'm goin to tell you somethin, cousin. John Grady leaned and spat. All right. Ever dumb thing I ever done in my life there was a decision I made before that got me into it.

It was never the dumb thing. It was always some choice I'd made before it. You understand what I'm sayin? I think so. Meanin what? Meanin this is it.

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This is our last chance. Right now. This is the time and there won't be another time and I guarantee it. Meanin just leave him? What if it was you? It aint me. What if it was? Rawlins twisted the cigarette into the corner of his mouth and plucked a match from his pocket and popped it alight with his thumbnail. He looked at John Grady. I wouldnt leave you and you wouldnt leave me.

That aint no argument. You realize the fix he's in? I realize it. It's the one he put hisself in. They sat.


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Rawlins smoked. John Grady crossed his hands on the pommel of his saddle and sat looking at them. After a while he raised his head. I cant do it, he said. What does that mean? It means okay. If you cant you cant. I think I knew what you'd say anyways. Yeah, well. I didnt. Blevins is fatally undone by a thunderstorm, babbling that his family tree attracts lightning.

The boy strips naked and cowers in a ravine, losing his horse, his pistol and his clothes in a flash flood. John Grady still refuses to abandon the kid, until they ride into a Mexican village and find old Blevins' pistol and horse under new ownership. Offering to help Blevins get his property back, the kid takes matters into his own hands.

Shots are fired and though Blevins finally goes his own way, drawing the posse away from John Grady and Rawlins, the two cowboys are certain that they haven't seen the last of old Blevins. John Grady and Rawlins continue on their three hundred kilometer trek through the state of Coahuila, where just over the Sierra del Carmen, the Mexicans tell of ranches that make John Grady think of the Big Rock County Mountains, lakes and runnin water and grass to the stirrups.

They arrive at the Hacienda de Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion La Purisima , an 11, acre ranch watered with natural springs and filled with shallow lakes, except in the western sections which rise to nine thousand feet. The vaqueros recognize John Grady and Rawlins as cowboys by the way the Americans sit in their saddles. Drawing closer to La Purisima, John Grady is fatally undone by the sight of a seventeen-year-old girl riding past them atop a black Arabian saddlehorse.

The ranch belongs to Don Hector Rocha y Villareal, whose family has held the land for one hundred and seventy years. Don Hector runs a thousand head of cattle and loves horses, trapping wild ones that roam in the higher elevations. When sixteen wild horses are brought down, John Grady proposes to Rawlins that they break all of the beasts in over four days.

Their workshop draws a hundred spectators and culminates in resounding success. John Grady is invited by Don Hector to his home, which he shares with his daughter's great aunt Alfonsa and at times, his passionate seventeen-year-old daughter, Alejandra. At the band's intermission they made their way to the refreshment stand and he bought two lemonades in paper cones and they went out and walked in the night air. They walked along the road and there were other couples in the road and they passed and wished them a good evening.

The air was cool and it smelled of earth and perfume and horses. She took his arm and she laughed and called him a mojado-reverso, so rare a creature and one to be treasured. He told her about his life. How his grandfather was dead and the ranch sold. They sat on a low concrete watertrough and with her shoes in her lap and her naked feet crossed in the dust she drew patterns in the dark water with her finger.

She'd been away at school for three years. Her mother lived in Mexico and she went to her house on Sundays for dinner and sometimes she and her mother would dine alone in the city and go to the theatre or the ballet. Her mother thought that life on the hacienda was lonely and yet living in the city she seemed to have few friends.

She becomes angry with me because I always want to come here. She says that I prefer my father to her. Do you? She nodded. But that is not why I come. Anyway, she says I will change my mind. About coming here? About everything. Cormac McCarthy can write like no other author. His facility with prose and dialogue reminded me of Stevie Ray Vaughan picking up a guitar and jamming. I loved the way the novel parsed out information, with McCarthy substituting descriptions and histories with impressions and hints, much the way a West Texan would if pressed for information.

His dialogue is often witty and retains a well earned pathos, while the very nature of the story is adventurous and fraught with tension. In Part IV, the taut control that McCarthy maintained up to that point is surrendered for self-indugence. Alfonsa, an intriguing character who is neither evil nor good, talks, and tells, and talks some more about her history and why she cannot allow her niece and John Grady to be together. I started skipping paragraphs, then pages. I knew the love affair was doomed, but characters talking about it contradicts everything McCarthy built up to that point in the novel.

John Grady's flight from Mexico and his quest to find his horse before doing so goes on and on. With neither Rawlins, Alejandra or Blevins around to play off Grady, including in the early go, the novel mumbles to itself. There is no denying the vision and storytelling breadth of three-fourths of the book. I wanted to be on that ride with John Grady and Rawlins, for better or for worse.

Columbia Pictures did too. In , the studio offered the directing job to Billy Bob Thornton, at the height of his filmmaking prestige for the low budget southern gothic Sling Blade. Thornton wasn't familiar with the novel, but loved westerns, and with Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz in the leads, turned in a rough cut that clocked in at minutes and tested disastrously. A Cliff Notes version of minutes was released in December and ignored by audiences.

Thornton didn't direct again for twelve years. View all 29 comments. Jun 25, Martine rated it did not like it Shelves: did-not-finish , disappointing , film , north-american , modern-fiction. I seldom abandon books after reading just a couple of pages, but in this case I had no choice. Two pages into the book I was so annoyed by McCarthy's random use of apostrophes and near-total lack of commas that I felt I had better stop reading to prevent an aneurysm.

I'm sure McCarthy is a great storyteller, but unless someone convinces me he has found a competent proof-reader who is not afraid to add some four thousand commas to each of his books, I'll never read another line he's written. I ca I seldom abandon books after reading just a couple of pages, but in this case I had no choice.

I can only tolerate so many crimes against grammar and punctuation. View all 80 comments. His world shifted and changed radically from what he knew and what he expected while growing up in San Angelos, Texas. He and his best friend Lacey Rawlins 17 decide to ride to Mexico and see if they can find work on a ranch.

On their way there, a younger boy, possibly 14 although he lay claim to 16 years named Jimmy Blevins joins them, although neither is particularly keen to have the fellow along. For starters, his name is the same as a preacher on the radio so the two older boys doubt that he even gave them his real name. He also has a large, expensive looking horse.

However, they appear to be stuck with him — until a series of incidents splits them up. Shrouded in the black thunderheads the distant lightning glowed mutely like welding seen through foundry smoke. As if repairs were under way at some flawed place in the iron dark of the world. Both the younger boy and his big horse happen to have a huge fear of lightning. All three of the young men meet up again a few weeks later, but their circumstances are much harsher than the rough living of their journey.

They do meet some characters along the way, and they all have stories: Buddy when he come back from up in the panhandle told me one time it quit blowin up there and all the chickens fell over. This is yet another event that converged with others to result in all three young men struggling to stay alive. This story is set mostly in Mexico in and is jam-packed with action, adventure, and misadventure. The writing is excellent and its pace is well suited to the story: it takes an ambling gait through parts of the story interspersed with wild gallops in-between.

Again, there is no punctuation to show when people are talking, and at times I was compelled to pay attention to context to know who was actually talking. Another hurdle for me is that several conversations take place in Spanish; however, I took it as a given that the summary of those conversations followed in the ever-moving flow of the story. I cared very much for the characters in this book and found empathy in my heart for pretty much everyone. View all 53 comments. Knopf in Its romanticism in contrast to the bleakness of McCarthy's earlier work brought the writer much public attention.

It was a bestseller, and it won both the U. It is also the first of McCarthy's "Border Trilogy". The boy was raised for a significant part of his youth, perhaps 15 of his 16 years, by a family of Mexican origin who worked on the ranch; he is a native speaker of Spanish and English. The story begins in , soon after the death of John Grady's grandfather when Grady learns the ranch is to be sold. Faced with the prospect of moving into town, Grady instead chooses to leave and persuades his best friend, Lacey Rawlins, to accompany him.

Traveling by horseback, the pair travel southward into Mexico, where they hope to find work as cowboys. Oct 05, Robin rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: true romantics. Shelves: , literary-fiction , national-book-award , american. On the surface, this book is a cowboy adventure. A gritty story in which childhood doesn't exist and two teenage boys, John Grady and Lacey Rawlins, are alone riding in a land foreign to them.

They speak when they only truly have something worth saying. They sleep under the stars. Their only possessions are often the clothes on their back, a razor and a toothbrush. Oh, and their horses. This life is sometimes idyllic, but more often, dangerous.

It becomes complicated when they run into Blevins, a On the surface, this book is a cowboy adventure. It becomes complicated when they run into Blevins, a kid whose fate entwines with theirs, with disastrous consequences. As in other books by this author, themes of fate and inevitability echo. Several lines have a prescient quality to happenings later on in the book. And, similar to No Country for Old Men , the wheels of the story are pushed down the hill by one single decision. It's pretty brutal cauterizing a bullet wound using a heated gun barrel is just one of the cringe-inducing scenes , though truth be told, this is decidedly gentler than other McCarthy books.

So yes, wild west saga. But between the lines, the book couldn't be more romantic. Not Nora Roberts romantic, no, although there is a love story here too. But within this book pulses a heart that beats passionately for the past. This heart is broken for the loss of a time that no longer exists. The ticking clock has left John Grady in a country he doesn't recognise, and to which he no longer belongs. Set in , he is witnessing is the death of an era. People will watch movies about cowboys, instead of living like them.

Elvis and television, office jobs and jello-molded salads - an artificially sanitised culture is around the bend. We don't glimpse the new world in the pages of this book, but we readers know what is ahead, and we know this guy on his horse will be the square peg, a ghostrider, a bewildered and bewildering sight. This yearning nostalgia is reflected in unbelievably lyrical prose. McCarthy outdoes himself here in lush descriptions that convey a deep romance, while at the same point writing with almost zero interiority or sentimentality. It's a magical mixture of the bleak and the heartfelt.

This novel isn't perfect. The ending, just as in No Country , slows significantly from a galloping story to a series of rambling speeches. But, I just couldn't give it less than five stars. I guess I like romance more than I thought. At the end of the day, there are few things John Grady can count on. One is his profound solitude. The other: those horses, those pretty horses - time cannot touch them. View all 38 comments. Nov 24, Katie rated it it was amazing.

Cormac McCarthy is so good at making you care deeply about his characters and then keeping you on tenterhooks of dread about what horror of bloodletting he's going to lead them into. Early on, McCarthy sets up a heartwarming friendship between them. And between Cole and his horse. Then they are joined by another boy even younger than they are who is riding an expensive horse.

There's alwa Cormac McCarthy is so good at making you care deeply about his characters and then keeping you on tenterhooks of dread about what horror of bloodletting he's going to lead them into. There's always a sense in this novel the horse is like an extension of the individual's will, a direct connection to what's both poetic and primal in an individual's soul. Both have an uneasy feeling about Blevins but despite efforts to drive him away the boy follows them.

It seems to be a recurring motif in McCarthy's books that one individual will personify ill fortune which will infect all those attached to him. During a thunderstorm the bringer of ill fortune, Blevins, loses his horse and leaves to hunt for it. For a while all seems to be going well for the two boys.

They find work with horses on a ranch in Mexico and Cole falls in love with the owner's daughter. Follow lovely moving love story. Then Blevin returns and the idyllic veneer of everything is brutally ripped away. Tremendously moving and well written. I'm now about to start my next McCarthy. View all 22 comments.


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  • Nov 13, Paul Bryant rated it liked it Shelves: novels. The audience is abuzz with low-quality hysteria. A glowering old man stands on the vast stage. He always looks like that though. Man : Cormac McCarthy. Simon : Where are you from? CM : Rhode Island. LA Reid : Would you say you had a philosophy of life? CM : There's no such thing as life without bloodshed.

    All the Pretty Horses

    I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous. Cheryl Cole : Awa, tha wez canny good but Ah think it wez above me heed. Paula Abdul : What are you going to do for us, Cormac?

    Simon : Okay, in your own time. Shots of 14 year old girls in the audience looking bewildered. Every time CM mentions violent death the boys whoop and cheer. Wis there any cooboys in the Bible Simon? Simon : Is that a yes or a no? LA Reid : I have to say — Cormac — did you have any idea how much you were getting on our nerves? Was it necessary to start every single sentence with for, and, yet, so — it was conjunction city. So here's another short word for you. Simon : Well with a superior smile which one sweet day someone will knock off his face I liked it.

    It was different. I think we could work something out. Mar 24, Jason Koivu rated it it was amazing Shelves: fiction. This western of new antiquity flows with a horse's grace and bursts into furious and powerful charges. McCarthy's pen grazes upon lush words. His verbs gallop, his adjectives whinny and snort. There is a subdued, wild loneliness. The populous within the pages wander like herds or rally in a tense, motionless pack ready to pounce, while mere boys -more man than most- wander through them ready for love, ready for death.

    These characters breath and sweat and bleed. The reader comes to know the true This western of new antiquity flows with a horse's grace and bursts into furious and powerful charges.

    All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy, #1) by Cormac McCarthy

    The reader comes to know the true color of their blood. It flows down their filthy boots into a landscape vivid with an encompassing spectrum not seen in The Road. Here, the travelers cross the land and the land touches their painfully real feet, and from there a current spreads out, electrifying the hardscrabble Mexican countryside. Kick the dust and sand off these words. Dig in and glory in their life-giving beauty. Review Appendix : There's a band I've recently come across who write the kind of music that would make for a wonderful soundtrack to McCarthy's Border Trilogy. The Division Men a husband and wife duo play a music that sounds like Leonard Cohen lost in the desert.

    View all 12 comments. Jan 06, Lyn rated it really liked it. Cormac McCarthy, in his novel, which begins his Border Trilogy has again conjured up dark and somber images of the verges of human civilization both literally and metaphorically in Mexico. John Grady Cole and his friend leave Texas and cross the border into Mexico and in some respects goes back in time as the tone and setting could be a hundred years earlier.

    Cole works on a horse ranch and then because of his skill with horses is invited into the ranch house where he begins a prohibi Cormac McCarthy, in his novel, which begins his Border Trilogy has again conjured up dark and somber images of the verges of human civilization both literally and metaphorically in Mexico. The setting of the young men traveling into an idyllic setting, though written simply and plainly, is evocative of a mystical quest tale. But this is after all Cormac McCarthy, creator of The Judge and Anton Chigurh, and so violence and darkness of the human soul are examined in minute detail.

    Compared to these other McCarthy stories, All the Pretty Horses is not as forbidding, and this more optimistic perspective relatively speaking , makes for a good story, with McCarthy demonstrating how Cole represents a dying epoch, a lost ideal. There is a way that everyone knows where a young woman can be the center of attention, but more subtle and more powerful is a way that an older woman can demand, grasp and take our notice. A woman who has been a girl, a daughter, a lover a mother, a wife, a grandmother and a widow whose beauty is blurred only as in an imperfect mirror and who knows all the spectrum of life better than anyone.

    There is a way that this woman can take the stage, if only in a supporting role, with but a few lines, who can steal not just the scene, but the whole show. This woman who knows life, whose eyes have seen it all, speaks and we all listen. McCarthy, who has created and crafted so many memorial players, has again in Alfonsa produced a character that will stay with us after the last page is turned.

    One of the better works of one of our most talented writers. View all 8 comments. Oct 29, Bram rated it really liked it Shelves: Not only do I know jack-shit about horses and their care, but my allergies basically the entire animal kingdom is off limits will see to it that I never will. Except maybe when it comes to romance. Oh, Cormac. The Alejandra and John Grady Cole relationship reads like a Hollywood movie where the producer came in demanding massive cuts in the middle, leaving us without all the get-to-know-you stuff between the character introduction and the sex--i.

    And their first contact is pure Hollywood love-at-first-sight cheese. How forgiving you are of this type of thing probably depends on how much you enjoy the story arc as a whole and how well you suspend disbelief generally. Despite some romantic shortcomings, McCarthy has once again won me over with his treatment of morality.

    Minor, vague spoilers to follow. Along with Alejandra, a side character named Jimmy Blevins exists mainly to get our hero in trouble. Blevins is a 13 year-old kid that tags along with JGC and his buddy Rawlins on their trip down to Mexico. And JGC and Rawlins are provided plenty of opportunities to move on without him, to leave him with what he deserves, to quit him after giving him every opportunity to be something less than a pain in the ass. But JGC sticks his neck out for Blevins especially when he deserves the opposite.

    And McCarthy knows how to do it well. And then it hit me—it was from B. Because taken as a standalone quotation, this sentence really does look ridiculous: While inside the vaulting of the ribs between his knees the darkly meated heart pumped of who's will and the blood pulsed and the bowels shifted in their massive blue convolutions of who's will and the stout thighbones and knee and cannon and the tendons like flaxen hawsers that drew and flexed and drew and flexed at their articulations of who's will all sheathed and muffled in the flesh and the hooves that stove wells in the morning groundmist and the head turning side to side and the great slavering keyboard of his teeth and the hot globes of his eyes where the world burned.

    Seussian ring to it, is meant to bully readers into thinking that the author's mind operates on a plane higher than their own—a plane where it isn't ridiculous to eulogize the shifts in a horse's bowels.

    After Rawlins receives a transfusion of more than a liter of blood, he worries that

    Furthermore, I suspect that many powerful passages—ones designed to reach an emotional peak without the constraints of Standard Written English rather than to achieve a straightforward communication of information—would look rather silly out of context, even or perhaps especially those written by the High Modernists who remain unsullied by Myers.

    Unorthodox sentences can be highly effective in context, and McCarthy shows great sensitivity in deciding when to unleash the fireworks and when to leave things plain and simple. Myers also complains about the level of detail, particularly when it comes to the mundane: But novels tolerate epic language only in moderation. To record with the same somber majesty every aspect of a cowboy's life, from a knife fight to his lunchtime burrito, is to create what can only be described as kitsch. And while, like Myers, I can also find a few things to criticize in All the Pretty Horses in addition to the romance , this nitpicking would seriously misconstrue my enjoyment of the book.

    I inhaled it.

    Cormac McCarthy

    View all 64 comments. Jul 07, Richard Derus rated it it was ok. With two companions, he sets off for Mexico on a sometimes idyllic, sometimes comic journey to a place where dreams are paid for in blood. Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction. Today's prompt is to discuss the "most chocolatey novel" for National Chocolate Day. I hate chocolate, and I hated this pretentious self-conscious poseur of a novel. I dont think omitting punctuation is novel since the nouveau roman movement has been doing it since oh I dunno the s AND its pretty much pointless in telling a standard coming-of-age story AND it's an absurd and inconsistently utilized affectation whose cynical deployment in this violent animal-abusive Peckinpahesque farrago won the author a National Book Award Which is not to say that McCarthy can't write very nice lines: Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting.

    A triumph! A brilliant overused word novel! It's a very basic coming-of-age-in-the-West story featuring a blah little boy who becomes a Man because shit happens. Where it isn't tedious it's nauseous. The pornographically sensual descriptions of guns and blood and cruelty are, for this reader at least, off-putting. Take away the "difficult" "innovative" really? How horrible is that. View all 15 comments. Jan 27, Duane rated it really liked it Shelves: american-classics , rated-books , national-book-award , guardian My first Cormac McCarthy book and not what I expected, better in fact.

    In a lightning thunderstorm, Blevins loses everything except one boot, but a few days later, when they see his horse in a small town, Encantada, the three of them dare to reclaim it, but, of course, they are followed. Blevins separates from John Grady and Rawlins, who finally arrive at a beautiful hacienda that they have heard about on their journey. They find work as cowboys and wranglers, breaking sixteen wild mustangs in four days, to earn their reputations. Soon, because John Grady has proved his abilities with horses, he is promoted to breeder for Senor Rocha, the hacienda owner.

    A love story begins when the owner's daughter, Alejandra, a year older than John Grady, seduces him. Rawlins tries to warn his friend of the danger he is getting into by entering a relationship with the owner's daughter. The two boys are taken away in handcuffs at the end of Chapter II, when they are caught by the men who saw them take Blevins' horse back and accused of stealing.

    Rawlins is very angry with John Grady, who defends himself by saying that some things meaning passionate love affairs aren't reasonable. After several days of hard riding, John Grady and Rawlins are put in a small jail cell in an adobe building and find Blevins there with broken feet. A fourth dweller in the cell, an old man, tells the boys that Blevins has killed three men, but Blevins says only one of the men died. After earning money on a farm for two months, Blevins went back to Encantada to retrieve his pistol.

    Having his horse was not enough for Blevins, and his return to the town where he retrieved his horse has now jeopardized three lives his own, John Grady's, and Rawlins'. During a transfer south to Saltillo prison, Blevins is shot and killed in the woods. John Grady and Rawlins, after much fighting in the Saltillo prison yard, are both severely wounded. Finally, John Grady is given an envelope of money by the commandant, and they are released.

    They figure out that Duena Alfonsa, the great aunt of Alejandra, the young girl John Grady loves, has bought their freedom. Rawlins decides to go home to Texas by way of Nuevo Larado, but John Grady wants to see Alejandra and also try to get their horses back. Rawlins is afraid for John Grady, who reassures him that he is not Blevins. John Grady makes it to La Purisima where the great aunt tells John Grady that Alejandra has promised never to see him again in turn for her great-aunt sending the money to release him from prison.

    The great-aunt, Duena Alfonsa, also tells John Grady how he has disappointed Senor Rocha by lying and denying any knowledge of Blevins. John Grady claims he wasn't allowed to tell his side of the story, but she says that does not matter. She gives him a horse and he rides to Torreon where he calls Alejandra in Mexico City.

    She agrees to meet him in Zacatecas, and they both take trains to meet there.


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