Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Big Rock Candy Mountain

The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner

Stegner excels at his description of people, their emotions and what makes them tick.  This book is no exception.

This book follows a family over the course of about 50 years as they struggle to survive in an uncertain world.  The voice of the book is an omnificent third party.  The voice first follows Elsa who marries Bo Mason against the better judgement of her family.  Bo is an erratic and volatile man who is in search of the next great break.  He is constantly trying to find his "big rock candy mountain."  Later, the voice changes and follows the youngest son Bruce.  Bruce had a difficult early childhood but learns to adapt to his ever-changing environment.  He ends up succeeding in ways the rest of his family never did.  He is also able to see his family with a detached view which seems almost cold and calculating.

This book takes place largely in the west and up into Canada.  It is set during the early years of the 20th century so we see the local effects of World War I, prohibition and the flu pandemic.  It is viewed as a largely autobiographical novel.  Whether it is or not, Stegner's tale is heart wrenching and poignant. This book was very difficult to read at times but in the end, I really enjoyed it and thought it was well worth reading.

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