Until They Bring the Streetcars Back
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Until They Bring the Streetcars Back (Cal Gant #1)

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  1,011 ratings  ·  96 reviews
Until They Bring The Streetcars Back serves up a nostalgic journey through the streets of post-war 1949 Saint Paul-- those wistful days of ten-cent sodas, big band music, and burning leaves. Stanley West weaves rollicking humor, riveting suspense, and a bittersweet love story into the fabric of those optimistic times. Through a seemingly harmless prank and a chance convers...more
Paperback, 274 pages
Published January 5th 1997 by Lexington-Marshall Publishing
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Beth F.
I was a teensy bit annoyed by the narrator of this book when I first started it, what with his excessive use of words like “crummy, lousy and droopy” to describe the things and moods around him and I started to worry that maybe I was dealing with a crummy Holden Caulfield knock-off. But as soon as I realized that Cal Gant, the teenaged narrator of “Streetcars” was not only not a psychopath but a decent average joe who got just happened to get sucked into the tortured, secret life of the class re...more
Jennifer
Jul 09, 2009 Jennifer rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People in the Twin Cities who like a local Mystery story
Recommended to Jennifer by: Bookclub
This book was really good! It told the story of Calvin (Cal) Gant. The year is 1949 and Cal is in his Senior Year at St. Paul Central. He is in Football and Basketball. He has a set of friends that he pals around with. And he has an after school job so he can save up for his own car. Everything is pretty darn good - and then he meets Gretchen Luttermann. This sad beat up little waif of a girl catches Cal's attention and his life changes. Suddenly his worries about Basketball and girls seem a lit...more
Theresa
This story is set in St Paul, Minnesota, in 1949. Cal Grant is a senior at Central High School. His family isn’t wealthy but they get by. They don’t own a car because his father is a streetcar driver and feels the family doesn’t need a car. They rent an apartment that they get a discount on because they are also the caretakers.

Cal is a fairly popular kid at school – he’s a decent football player and an outstanding basketball player. There’s a girl at school that he thinks he’s in love with, he h...more
Amy
Nov 28, 2011 Amy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: adult
I loved this book! This is the story of Cal Gant who is a high school student in St. Paul. By accident, he has a conversation in school with Gretchen who is a girl no one wants to be caught having a conversation with. Word has it that her older sister went crazy and was sent to an insane asylum and Gretchen isn't far behind. She wears awful clothes, never makes eye contact with anyone much less talks with others, and has no friends. Gretchen sees something compassionate and caring in Cal and eve...more
Brittany Permann
Until They Bring the Streetcars Back by Stanley Gordon West was a very intense reading. It is about Cal,a young boy, who wants to fit in and be in the "popular" group at school. He is in love with a girl he never thinks he has a chance with. His whole life changed when he met Gretchen. She is a shy girl who has no connection to anyone in her school. Her family life is hard to say the least. She tries to be a shadow to everyone at school. Many things happen and lead up to Cal being put in jail. T...more
Jill
Very good book. Takes place in the Twin Cities so it is fun to picture what areas look like now that are mentioned in the book. Not sure just when I read this, before 2006
Bridgett
i started reading this last year when i was subbing...now i'm going to read it to get ready to teach it...
Carm
Overrated. Initially I was reading this to see if it could work as a new text for American Literature class. Then 2 colleagues read it and praised it and another friend said she'd really enjoyed it... Well, I can't say I agree. It did keep me reading and I thought it was tolerable but certainly not a well written book and certainly not a subject I wanted to ever reread. The language was my biggest stumbling block.. .this boy did too much "legging it" and "hoofing it" in this book. Sometimes he l...more
Jack
Until they bring the streetcars back is a very intense novel. Cal is a senior in high school and his whole senior year changes once he starts talking to Gretchen. I found the beginning of the novel repetitive because all they did was go to dances at the school and go to the diner after. Once you get farther it switches gears and focuses on Gretchen, this is when I couldn't put the book down. I liked that Cal got over his old girlfriend and focused on the case between Gretchen and her father.
angrykitty
so dan's mom asked me to join her book club and this was the book they were reading. it's not bad, but it's very similar to "the greatest thing since sliced bread".....same time period and so same tone and style......and i really was getting into teen vampire angst lit...oh well......

this was actually a pretty good book. since i grew up in the area that the book takes place in, i kinda could follow it a little differently than someone that wasn't from the area. the weird thing was, that as i men...more
Carol G
Set in St. Paul, MN in 1949 when streetcars still ran, a 17 yr. old boy (Calvin) befriends a classmate (Gretchen) and gets drawn into a lair of violence and abuse from her father. Calvin creates a scheme to expose & frame Gretchen's dad, but gets himself put in jail when the plan fails, and only when the girl's mother speaks up does Calvin get exhonerated from the crime. Written in the vernacular of the 50's, I enjoyed the descriptions this kid gave to some of his life events, such as his op...more
Grace Hagen
It's been awhile since I've read this, but I still consider it one of my favorite books. It has excitement, interesting historical tidbits from St.Paul, MN, and it does a good job of dealing with difficult topics.
Paul
I really enjoyed this book. I like the author and the setting is St Paul which is fun to read. A little darker than the usual Stanley Gordon West, and I like that it didn't have a neat ending. The print gets a little blurry at times in the last chapter.
bookwoman
Loved the detail of all the streets in St. Paul in this era. I was compelled to read to find out what happened to this guy.
Jack
One of my all-time favorite books! It contains one of my favorite lines - "Too bad they don't make storm-windows for the heart". The story is about a young man, a senior in high school in the St. Paul of the 1960's. If anyone wishes to know what it felt like to be a young man at that time, read this book. It captures that I remember of those times at that age. And, it's a fascinating story. West also wrote two other novels about this time period, also well worth reading. Plus, he wrote many nove...more
Sarah
I think that freshmen in high school will love this book for the same reasons I disliked it. The message is syrupy, the symbolism is too obvious, and West feels the need to frequently and clumsily remind us of the real purpose of each chapter in the larger narrative. It did, though, seem like a high-schooler had written it, so maybe the very problems I have with the book are what make it successful. Still, I find it to be heavy-handed. I would rather read an ingeniously crafted story than a clum...more
Leslie
I loved this story. Set in the streets of St. Paul, MN, the setting gives me a slice of life from my mom's era when she grew up in neighboring Minneapolis. In fact, she recommended it to me, and I waved it off because I thought it was an historical account of urban development. Little did I realize how intrigued I was by the two teens who serve as early poster children for disturbed minds. Despite the rather uncomfortable description, the narrator has a great sense of humor that is best enhanced...more
Lynne
This was a book that I felt at home in. It took place in St. Paul, MN, right where my alma mater is located, so I recognized all the sreet names. I even did my student teaching at Monroe High School, a school rival in the story. What fun! The story features a young man who is a student at St. Paul Central High School. He befriends a fellow student, a girl, who is living in a disfunctional family where she is being abused. It gets him in trouble, but the story ends on a positive note. I could ima...more
Jeff Bottrell
A fantastic novel that deserves wider recognition.
Becca
I read this book with a 10th grade English class I help out in at school. It's a great coming-of-age story with some very interesting historical context, as it takes place in St. Paul in 1949-50, just as the streetcars were beginning to be replaced by buses. The main character, Cal, is so lovable as he goes out of his way to help others, even if it means getting himself into serious trouble.
Agnes
This book takes place in St. Paul in 1949, and I could recognize some of the places and streets mentioned. I got caught up in the plot right away, but I couldn't quite understand why the author chose the title until well into the book. I loved the main character, Calvin, and after teaching high school kids for years, I could recognize some of his good characteristics that teenagers actually sometimes try to hide.
I will take a look at West's other books now.
Randy
I picked up this book at a friends cabin and started to read it. I realized I had it on my un-read bookshelf at home so I finished my own copy. Great story about the "Central" area of St. Paul, the kinds of trouble one can get in with the best intentions and provides some insight into the human struggles with imperfect people and families. I enjoyed this book and it even contained some info about the streetcars vs. standard oil on the side, an unexpected benefit.
Laura
When I read this book, I was a freshman at Central Senior High and lived in the part of Saint Paul where this story takes place. That really added something to the story for me, and I completely fell in love with the book. Cal's character is so relateable and charming, even down to the way his dialogue is written. The story is so interesting and hard to put down, I plan on rereading it and several other of Stanley Gordon West's books as soon as possible.
Paulette
Another book unlike what I usually read. This is set in 1949, St. Paul,told from the point of view of an 18 year old boy.

Post-war era where streetcars grace the city. Cal Grant has rollicking friends (and from my dad's stories of life in the cities)and it rings true for me. He stumbles on lair of violence amid his idyllic life and then struggles with choices.

A couple parts were a little hard to swallow but I really like the book.
Andy
Not what I was expecting based on the cover and the title. If J.D. Salinger had written a mystery novel it might have been something like this. The 1949-1950 time period, St. Paul setting and the characters all felt authentic. Unpretentious writing style fit the story perfectly. I'd recommend this to anybody and I'll be reading his other books, I hope they are as good as this.
Janet
Set in the 1940s, the book is about the coming-of-age for high-school aged students. A popular senior boy befriends the class misfit and discovers why she is so sheltered. Through this discovery, he works to ensure her safety and protection, regardless of the consequences to himself. Read this book as it is increadibly touching! You may need to go to the library to get this book.
Leslie Erickson
Many references are made to the area in St. Paul, MN where I live and teach. How ironic that school in the 1950's isn't all that different from what we experience today. It followed the historical background of how the streetcars were quickly disposed of and sent to Mexico, replaced by buses, and the effect it had on people that previously were employed by the streetcars.
James
From the first page to the last, this read was compelling to continue from page to page. It was hard to put down. This is one of the best books I have ever read. The story line is sad but the prose is written in such a natural way it is like the reader is right there. Perhaps this was more obvious to me since I live in St. Paul, MN and know the streets and areas mentioned.
Steven
The book is set in St. Paul just after WWII. A high school student discovers that a sorry looking, almost invisible girl in his school is not what she seems and desparately needs rescuing. He selflessly goes about trying to save her at his own risk. This is a beatiful coming of age book with a message of morality that is deep without being heavy handed.
Stacy
I really liked this book. It was set in MN in the area I went to college in, so I could relate to where they were. But the story was really good. Because he used some historically accurate data in the story, it felt like a true story and you really cared for the main characters. I would recommend to somebody who is looking for something a little different.
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Stanley Gordon West was born in 1932 and attended St. Paul Central High School in Minnesota. He lived in Bozeman, Montana for several years, and now resides in Shakopee, MN. All of his novels are popular book club selections: Blind Your Ponies, two other novels set in the same time and place as Until They Bring the Streetcars Back - Finding Laura Buggs and Growing an Inch - and his most recent, Sw...more
More about Stanley Gordon West...
Blind Your Ponies Finding Laura Buggs Amos : To Ride A Dead Horse Growing an Inch (Fiction) Sweet Shattered Dreams

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