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All the Land to Hold Us: A Novel

3.44  ·  Rating Details ·  134 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
A strange and powerful landscape summons strange and powerful happenings

Rick Bass brings a lyrical lushness to the harsh backdrop of West Texas in his masterfully crafted fourth novel. All the Land to Hold Us is a sweeping tale of those who live on the desert’s edge, where riches—precious artifacts, oil, water, love—can all be found and lost again in an instant.

Roaming ac
Hardcover, 324 pages
Published August 13th 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2010)
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Oct 16, 2013 Josh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Rarely do I borrow a library book------yet feel the need to go buy it at full retail price the moment I finish it. Temper that endorsement until you read on.

I guess there are people who wouldn't enjoy this. Those people (with all due respect) simply don't value the same things I tend to gravitate toward when deciphering how to respond to what I'm reading. In the same respect that pieces of art are museum quality to some but rate as garbage to others, this one makes my list of favorites without q
switterbug (Betsey)
Jan 31, 2014 switterbug (Betsey) rated it it was amazing
If you are a reader with an open mind about how a superb book should develop, and allow this very different kind of narrative to captivate you, then you are ripe to allow Bass’s novel to stir you in surprising ways. It isn’t character-based, and yet, it is, if you allow for the land to be a character, and for the setting to evolve from geography/geology to the essence of the life cycle, the tincture and elixir of existence.

“The landscape gathered all men, across the ages, as the anguished, hung
Sep 25, 2013 Jamie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-wild-west
Rick Bass, writing, still, one of the only kinds of love stories that make sense to me at all. Same as he ever was, the first time I read Platte River, or The Sky, The Stars, The Wilderness, or Where The Sea Used To Be.

Because they’re stories— a story— about time. About geology. About sun, and salt, and death, and bright colors. And water.

And maps.

Instead, they mapped. It was like a covenant, a trust increasing slowly each day. It was not a leap into the abyss, not a plummeting nor a freefall
Jul 18, 2014 Laura rated it it was ok
I will give the first 200 pages a 1 star and the last 100 pages a 3 star bringing my final rating to a 2. Why did I hate the first 2/3rds of the book because it was too wordy for my liking. It took the author page after page to express a point. It took me 10 days to read this short book because there were so many details. I have no passion for this book at all. I would have abandoned this book if my husband didn't find this to be one of his favorite books of all times and continued to prod me to ...more
Debbie "DJ"
Sep 14, 2013 Debbie "DJ" rated it really liked it
- Won on first reads giveaway-
This book is written with such depth and poetry that it must be read slowly. It is a sweeping saga of old Texas oil fields, salt mines, small town mind sets, and love in it's many forms. Often, I felt I was emerged in layer upon layer of geologic time. Each page took me further into the depth of Bass's writing. It is so poetic that the characters became alive for me and I felt as if I was among them. It is almost easier to describe as a haunting experience rather t
May 14, 2014 Robin rated it did not like it
If you’ve ever wanted to visit western Texas, this book could well dampen your enthusiasm. Between the salty brine lakes, the bends of the Pecos River, and the desert itself, there are numerous ways to die. Bass gives many examples in excruciating detail. As the remains of both animals and humans are discovered by excavators, I’d hoped that the lives of the entombed would be discovered and have an impact upon the excavators and other characters. But instead, the remains were described in great d ...more
Jul 12, 2013 Joe rated it really liked it
I Review Rick Bass’s All the Land to Hold Us.

There, men lust for and consume the desert’s treasures: salt, oil, water. Stones whisper secrets, elephants cry and dance, children cremate puppets in a funeral pyre, and sentinel-like skeletons hear music and possess a longing that hasn’t perished with their bodies. That harsh and lonely landscape, brilliant and searing, draws toward it treasure hunters, oilmen, and two pairs of lovers from different generations “as the eye of the needle of heaven is
Sep 11, 2014 Lyra rated it liked it
I wanted to love this book. "Where the Sea Used to Be," Bass' first novel, is one of my very favorites. I thought this one might be for Texas what "Where the Sea Used to Be" was for Montana. And it almost makes it, with the same richly descriptive poetry of landscape and the complicated human heart. The plot just never quite comes together though. The last couple of chapters give a glimpse of what could be a larger, more complex story, with characters finally developing enough that you just begi ...more
Aug 19, 2013 Amy rated it really liked it
332 pages

I enjoyed The Black Rhinos of Nambia (Non-Fiction) by Rick Bass, so I picked up this book.
It was slow going in the beginning, just like the hands of time, that mold us into what we become.
There were many meanings to explore in this book. I totally enjoyed the descriptions of the land while learning about its history and geology, and how everything has to adapt.
Bob Peru
Feb 10, 2017 Bob Peru rated it really liked it
highly recommended. so elegantly structured in a good way. ties together almost to a fault.
Jan 19, 2015 Carmine rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 13, 2013 Ryan added it
Very grateful to have won this book through a Goodreads giveaway. I'd always been curious about Rick Bass's work, so I was happy to get this opportunity. That said, the novel didn't work for me. I felt the whole time that what I was reading was exposition, instead of action. So much of it is about what "usually would" or "sometimes would" or "always would" happen, instead of what did. I felt the whole time that I was waiting to find the inciting action, and lost interest before I did. Bass is ob ...more
Henderson County Public Library
West Texas is a harsh and barren landscape and the people who live there must be tough. This beautifully written narrative paints a picture of several generations of Texans who have bet their dreams on the natural resources buried deep under the Texas desert. From Max and Marie who mine for salt to keep the wolves of the Depression at bay to Richard, a modern day geologist who works for an oil company, all have hung the hopes for their future on finding something precious under the heat of the d ...more
Andy Miller
Nov 27, 2013 Andy Miller rated it it was ok
If a geologist turned writer decided to write a novel and forsake character development, plot, and for the first part, dialogue; that would include flirtations with magical realism, surrealism, and symbolism with no substance to either; and make the geology of an area a main character without making that geology especially compelling, he would write this book

The novel is set in Odessa Texas and the desert and a salt lake outside the city focusing on three separate time periods. A geologist, a sa
Nov 17, 2014 Leah rated it liked it
beautiful writing that rambles to nowhere

West Texas, oil, wealth, death, geology... and, of course, The Land. I'm not sure much "meaning"-filled activity transpired during the 300+ pages of All the Land to Hold Us, but I am sure I love Rick Bass' poetic evocations of landscape and light, of fear, of loss, of emptiness. I felt I was there in those spaces, in those places, with those characters, but in the end, we'd journeyed from there to nowhere. Recommend? Yes, if only for the rhythmic movement
Aug 31, 2016 Eric rated it really liked it
May have made this same point before, but Bass beautifully balances a fierce love of the land with sharp insight into human needs and desires. All the Land features brilliant naturescapes and deep personal dives. The narrative has a superb arc, using both recurrence and sharp transitions deftly. He changed my conception of the desert, specifically West Texas, forever. And this is by far the best use of an elephant in a story outside of, well, Saramago's Elephant's Journey.

Mufti's (the elephant t
Jun 02, 2014 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rick Bass' loving, lyrical ode to the land isn't the kind of book a lot of people are going to pick up on the spur of the moment. Not a linear story, or even one with a main character or, for most of the book, dialogue, but engrossing nonetheless. Bass knows his oil-drilling, explorations in the desert for water and how the heat colors everything that goes on in life. Despite the format and the way the story is told, this book moves quickly and is thoroughly engrossing.
Mar 16, 2014 Deborah rated it liked it
Didn't quite grab me, but I like some of the prose.

Each traveler’s life passing through that sea like the equally brief phosphorescent specter of time or memory that trailed in the traveler’s wake: though always, after that phosphorescence faded, there would be one more traveler.

Castle Gap in the West Texas landscape

Oh, yes, a geologist. We know about the indefatigable and insatiable hearts of geologists.
April Chick
Jul 21, 2014 April Chick rated it liked it
It took some time for the book to take hold of me but I'm glad I persisted. The extreme landscapes- of both the physical world of the novel and the emotional world of the characters intrigued me. The scarcity of love and other natural resources makes men and women mad. We adjust to survive, but it's not pretty. We make do without love, companionship, food and water for a time but there is a cost.
Dec 27, 2013 Holly rated it liked it
A bit odd, but not unpleasantly so. After page 30, I figured I'd read to about 60 and just give it up. But then the characters started getting interesting and I wasn't ready to leave them yet. Lots of fantastic descriptions of the desert and what the sun can do to your skin and your mind. A pretty interesting read. Worth your time.
Stephen Childress
Oct 04, 2013 Stephen Childress rated it liked it
This is a very dense book with not a lot of dialogue. After reading this book I think someone would think twice before becoming a petroleum geologist. There must be a lot of symbolism (e.g. the elephant, the giant fish) that I missed which is perhaps one reason I didn't enjoy it that much.
Jun 08, 2014 Neil rated it it was ok
A bit overwritten for my taste—it was hard to get a sense of the people or places being described for all the excess detail Bass offers. The third section, where he covers more characters in a shorter span of time, was much more successful to me, but by that point was too late.
Oct 03, 2015 Suzanne rated it did not like it
Couldn't finish it. It dragged too much for me. Although I was intrigued how the characters are described from the outside in. The physical landscape shapes the characters and their motivations, instead of "looking" inside their heads.
Breeann Kirby
Sep 19, 2013 Breeann Kirby rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2013
Bass does an excellent job of creating characters who nicely mirror the harsh west Texas landscape. However, everything is so epic and portentous that the reader gets sucked into that salt lake, as it were, frozen, unable to slog past the skeletons of those lost before.
Marik Casmon
I thought this was a beautiful novel, filled with writing to be read slowly and enjoyed. It tells a story about a landscape and the passage of time and some people who live there. Thoughtful, elegiac, moving.
nobody takes longer to say less than rick bass. his nonfiction is always much better, in my opinion. funky southwest texas novel here though.
Dec 14, 2013 Jacqueline rated it did not like it
Books don't ever put me to sleep. At least until I came across this one. I couldn't make it past chapter two because every time I picked it up the book made me want to fall asleep!
Lynne rated it it was amazing
May 08, 2016
Hindym rated it really liked it
Jun 28, 2015
Kayla rated it really liked it
Aug 19, 2016
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Rick Bass was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in Houston, the son of a geologist. He studied petroleum geology at Utah State University and while working as a petroleum geologist in Jackson, Mississippi, began writing short stories on his lunch breaks. In 1987, he moved with his wife, the artist Elizabeth Hughes Bass, to Montana’s remote Yaak Valley and became an active environmentalist, wo ...more
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