<B>In McMurtry's latest, two wild women hit the road</B> When Larry McMurtry is not writing a western, the West is usually lurking somewhere in the background. This is the case with his latest offering, a humorous saga of two post-menopausal free spirits who set off from L.A. to Texas for one last fling.

Maggie and Connie have been best friends since sixth grade and cruising for guys since they were 14. Maggie has three married daughters who no longer need her; after her hysterectomy she is totally at loose ends, and inexplicably depressed. She begins to lose interest in running her "loop group" a cast of motley characters who dub death groans and squeals for movie soundtracks. She tires of listening to her daughters' endless marital woes, and her affair with her somewhat kinky and married shrink is going nowhere. So Maggie talks Connie into taking a trip to Texas to visit her eccentric Aunt Cooney, a chicken rancher who keeps two million chickens and lives in a house with 32 bedrooms. Mag-gie and Connie pack a snakebite kit, cowboy boots and plenty of black bras, and off they go stopping whenever they need a drink or a little pot, and getting lost only a few times. Unfortun-ately, Maggie's cell phone gives her little respite from family responsibilities, and she is constantly kept abreast of what's going on back in L.A., including one teenage niece getting pregnant and all three sons-in-law leaving her daughters for younger women.

Upon their return, things are still not going all that well: the shrink has "passed on," and Maggie and Connie have both lost their jobs. Maggie mulls over her options finding another shrink? Joining a convent? Or should she just try and pull together the loop group again? There are those maxed-out credit cards, after all.

McMurtry obviously had a lot of fun writing about what must be his firsthand experience with the downsides of menopause. This is more of a "chick book" than many of his previous novels, but his biting and insightful humor is still evident in this honest portrayal of L.A., Hollywood and two Valley Girls approaching their "advanced years." <I>Deborah Donovan writes from Cincinnati and La Veta, Colorado.</I>

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