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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner

I enjoyed reading Wallace Stegner's Pulitzer Prize winning book, "Angle of Repose" so that is why I chose to read "Big Rock Candy Mountain" also by him. I was not disappointed. There is something great about a book when you continue to think about it and its characters in the days following the completion of reading the book. It was that way for me when I finished "Big Rock Candy Mountain" and I am continuing to ponder what I read.

Elsa is eighteen when she leaves her home in Minnesota to help keep house for her uncle. She still misses her mother who died three years previously and probably would not have left home except for the fact that her father marries a woman who was supposed to be Elsa's best friend and who is 20 years younger than her father. Young and naïve and still hurting she meets Bo Mason who sweeps her off her feet. They marry and the book is mainly about their life and family over the course of 30 years.

Bo always has the desire to make money quickly and as he and Elsa drift from one location to another, that dream of being rich never comes to fruition. Despite living in poverty, Bo being involved in illegal rum-running and gambling, Elsa stays with Bo through it all. From North Dakota to Canada, Nevada to Utah, Bo keeps searching for the one scheme that will make him rich.

The writing in this novel is beautiful as you read about the life and times of survival during the lean years of the early 20th century and the back roads of the American Northwest. The characters are complex and you wonder whether Elsa was a saint to put up with Bo all those years and if Bo is totally to blame for not providing better for his family. There are no easy answers, but you will be left pondering the questions all the same. The book is a bit long but it is a fast paced and engaging classic.

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