Friday, September 18, 2009

The Big Rock Candy Mountain

The Big Rock Candy Mountain (Contemporary American Fiction) The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner

Book 31 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First published in 1943, this book is an autobiographical fiction novel set in the American West during the early 20th century. Elsa has just run away from her family in Minnesota when she meets the charismatic Bo Mason and the two fall in love. Bo Mason's main goal in life is to "make a pile" and he will do pretty much anything to try and accomplish that. Over the years, the family moves numerous times--North Dakota, Canada, Montana, Washington, and Utah included. Bo wants to earn money and earn it fast. He tries farming, mining, gambling, and bootlegging whiskey. But the fruition of Bo's dreams always seems just out of reach.

The writing was amazing, but this wasn't an easy read. It was long, slow, and more on the depressing side. But, I'm not sorry I read it. The observations on human nature, conflicting personalities, and life-making decisions were stunning. The storytelling perspective shifts between the characters--Elsa, Bo, and their boys, Chet and Bruce. I felt I knew them all intimately, and while I would not make the same choices they did, I understood them.

At 563 pages spanning 30 years, this book is hard to sum up. It's beautiful, it's heartbreaking, it's a masterful piece of literature. I'll definitely be seeking out more of Stegner in the future.

Read Corinne's wonderful review:
Have you read this one?
Any specific works by Stegner you would recommend?

Source: BookMooch


bermudaonion said...

The book sounds like a fascinating commentary on human nature, but I think I'd have to be in the right mood to read it.

Corinne said...

Everyone keeps telling me that Crossing to Safety is a must read.

Starr said...

I think I too would love this book, but I'd have to be in a special emotional/mental framework. Definitely not fluffy reading.

Paige said...

We read Crossing to Safety for our bookclub a few years ago. I ended up buying it and was glad I did I liked it so much. Sounds like it reads easier than Big Rock. The friend who chose the book said the author is one of Pres. Hinckleys' favorites. That could be mormon myth but it wouldn't surprise me. The writing is very thoughtful.