After his third wife leaves him, Henry hops in his truck, his dying dog following faithfully behind, and travels east, (from his small home in Arizona), to the place of his childhood. As he travels, he reminisces upon his past life and past loves. A man unwilling to submit to society, Henry and his beautiful character give a valuable lesson to the reader. Learn from it.
As the book progresses, you learn more and more about Henry, (Henry may be a fool, but Henry is far wiser than the worker in the cubicle). Flirtatious, he is quick to fall deeply in love; extremist, does anything to protect the wilderness; and extravagant, he's a philosopher with no job. He values freedom more than anything else ... and NOT the kind must Americans think of. He takes the freedom to sleep miles from the city, under the stars, for most of the year and to pee in sinks. He takes the freedom to carry around a knife and gut his own goat. He takes the freedom to never have a full time job. (Americans usually take the "freedom" to own a house, SUV, a wife, two happy kids, a stable job and have no ambition other than to retire). He has a love for the West, for the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, the geological formations and the multi-cultural people of Albuquerque. Edward Abbey himself is so present in this novel ... you could call it autobiographical.
This book can tell you so much ... please learn from it. But it's beauty is unusual. I admired Abbey's writing before I read this, but he sweeps up all the common archetypes of literature and life, and puts them all in one classic novel.