The Meadow
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The Meadow

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  831 ratings  ·  156 reviews
An American Library Association Notable Book

In discrete disclosures joined with the intricacy of a spider's web, James Galvin depicts the hundred-year history of a meadow in the arid mountains of the Colorado/Wyoming border. Galvin describes the seasons, the weather, the wildlife, and the few people who do not possess but are themselves possessed by this terrain. In so doi...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 15th 1993 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1992)
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Time To Let Go by Christoph FischerThe Spectator Bird by Wallace StegnerThe Meadow by James GalvinSkywater by Melinda Worth PophamMy Summer With George by Marilyn French
Aging as a Theme in Fiction
1st out of 22 books — 3 voters
The Kite Runner by Khaled HosseiniNever Let Me Go by Kazuo IshiguroAngela's Ashes by Frank McCourtThe Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
Best ALA Adult Notables
42nd out of 134 books — 49 voters


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Community Reviews

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Jeanette
"Often I am permitted to return to a meadow..."

This is a quiet, thoughtful read for those of us who have a strong heart connection with the high sagebrush country of the inter-mountain West. It follows about a century's-worth of people's doin's in a mountain meadow at 8,500 feet in southern Wyoming. The life requires great hardiness and ingenuity to withstand the isolation and trials of snow, wind, fire, hunger, disease, and financial uncertainty.
The book is beautifully and heartfully written,...more
Kirsten
"If Lyle said he heard stars he heard stars."
Marit
Technically this book is a sort of memoir/historical non-fiction, but it reads like fiction. The style of writing blew me away with its simple but strong prose that vibrates with calm intensity. Galvin's writing is almost like Hemingway, short episodes, almost unrelated at times, that jump back and forth through time. Galvin tells the story of this Wyoming meadow through his own eyes and the recounted (and author-embellished) stories of several stolid and vivid Western men. After reading this, I...more
Kate
I am having a hard time writing this review, because this book is so spare, so intricate, so spellbinding that I struggle to find the words to give even a minimal conception of the scope and breadth and depth of it. Other have done a better job than I ever could.

From Publishers Weekly:
These ragged sketches of ranch life along the Wyoming-Colorado border depict the author's neighbors--hardscrabble folk--in wry, stoic stories of skill, survival and loss that flash back and forth across 100 years o...more
Micheal
Sep 28, 2010 Micheal rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Micheal by: Anyone who loves the west and beautiful writing
Read this book the first time back in 2000, and though I liked it, didn't really see it for what it is. Reminded of it by a friend, subsequent re-reading brought me back to a place I'd somehow forgotten. The West I once knew. Like a landscape looked on fleetingly once upon a time, the return visit revealed vistas that went unnoticed before. I can smell the warm pine and fresh cut hay. Flaming sunsets over fir silhouetted ridge lines in winter are painted vividly as are winding dirt roads meander...more
Julia
Mmmm, wow. The same wonderful friend who gave me "Autobiography of Red" tipped me off to poet James Galvin's novel-length effort. Although effort is probably the wrong word, as it implies to me that perhaps the effort wasn't successful, where instead, "The Meadow" is partially fictional, fully poetic, and totally wonderful. I read it with Edward Abbey in mind--Galvin chronicles the lives of several generations of farmers on a singular meadow on the Wyoming-Colorado border, and he also earns hims...more
Elly Sands
Reading a book like this is such a treat, a real pleasure. I loved this book, the writing is absolutely exquisite. I felt so drawn to all the characters, especially Lyle. I just couldn't get enough of him. One of the most interesting men in any book I've ever read. Galvin's description of the landscape and the changing weather evoked such beautiful images. I've given this four stars rather than five because I had trouble with the changing of time frames. It stopped the flow for me when I had to...more
Inken Purvis
The Meadow is an extraordinary book. James Galvin is a poet and this part novel / part biography reads almost like an epic poem with each chapter as a new verse. Weaving back and forth in time and from character to character, the meadow of the title remains at the core of these people’s lives. The land is harsh, beautiful and unforgiving but it demands so much from App, Ray, Clara and Lyle who are a family determined to keep their land and remain fervently independent despite blizzards, tragedy...more
Eric
This novel is a quiet, understated stunner; I nearly want to compare it to an Ondaatje novel in its poetic sensibility and beguiling concision. It speaks most powerfully through images and distilled, economic character revelations, and its cumulate effects will work their way deep inside of you. Like some of my other favorite novels (To the Lighthouse, By the Lake, etc.), this novel forces you to slow down to enter its world properly: if you do, though, you'll be greatly rewarded. I'd struggle t...more
Liz
While at first I felt that this book was poetic, but choppy, the connections became more clear as I moved farther into the story and recognized its non-linear structure. Having lived in Laramie, I enjoyed reading about this nearby area of the Wyoming/Colorado boarder. Galvin's beautiful prose tells a story that embodies the Wyoming values of self-reliance and independence. This is a wonderful read that I know I will come back to again.
Aaron Lozano
Why do we love living in Wyoming? Well, it's likely you wouldn't understand and we couldn't explain it. Galvin knows and he captures it here. I know the people in this book. I've never met them, but I know them. I know the people, the places, the weather, the scenery. A must read. A masterpiece.
Donna
Within these pages you might find the voice of that elderly uncle or the grandfather you would have loved to talk with once you'd become an adult. Maybe to ask, “what was your life like?” or “what really mattered.”

You’ve met fully formed characters like these in Wendell Berry and Wallace Stegner. I first suspected the narrator must be a whittler. Someone who continually nicks a small scrap of wood until only the honesty remains. But this fellow does it to his words. He takes careful considerati...more
Susan Eubank
"As it turned out they were indeed not far from home. The snow stopped with eerie suddenness. The wind quit working on them. suddenly the whole thing seemed like the jokes kids played on Jack at school, the kind that make you mad. The stars showed like holes drilled in a tin roof beyond which it was always day. The outline of Boulder Ridge proclaimed itself. It looked too big ever to lose.
When they reached the cabin App lit the heater and a piece of the matchhead stuck under his thumbnail and...more
Lainie
Written like a prose poem in many short chunks, this novel may in fact be non-fiction. The author and his family appear by name as part of a range of characters, some we meet in brief passing, others we learn to know in every eccentric detail. The meadow itself is a main character. Ranching and haying are described in rich detail, as are methods for hand forging tools and machinery.

Coincidentally, I had just finished reading Plainsong, by Kent Haruf, which also includes scenes of cattle inocula...more
Jeff Hamilton
This deeply moving book for all I know is a classic. I read it eighteen years ago when it came out, have only now re-read it, and as with all classics, I rather hope I've learned more from it in re-reading than I did the first time around. The Meadow is about several things, but first it's the story of Lyle Van Waning and the community he helped form on the high ridge of the Continental Divide, the region called Boulder Ridge and Sheep Creek Meadow in the border area between Wyoming and Colorado...more
Carol Smith
A poem. A song. An ode. To be read slowly. Savor the language. Savor how the short chapters - some just a sentence long - feel like an aperture that slowly opens, takes in the view whole, then closes. Then repositions itself and repeats.

Consider the relationships between environment and man, man and animal, man and man, animal and environment. Consider tools and how men employ them as an intermediary in their relationship with the environment. Consider the passage of time. Consider how time was...more
Abby
Sep 09, 2013 Abby added it
The real world goes like this: I marked this "to read" long before I realized I would be living on the island made by the wandering waters of Chambers Lake. Now that I am living here, of course I get a heart-tug whenever I read the places that have become so familiar: Laramie, Jelm, Woods Landing, Virginia Dale, Fort Collins. And of course whenever I cross the river I can't help but think, "Well, back on the island."

But familiarity aside: this is perfect, or maybe just as sound as the right piec...more
Cindy
I loved _The Meadow_ the first time I read it, but that was for a class during a packed semester, so it was naturally a rushed reading. This time the title came up - literally a name pulled out of a jar - in a book club. I enjoyed the second reading even more, having the luxury of enough time to enjoy it in leisurely snatches.

Galvin writes with such admirable attention to detail that I decided to read an excerpt from the book to my creative writing class as an excellent model of indirect charac...more
Catherine
Fiction, but not really a novel, this book consists of anecdotes about a recurring cast of characters who lived in the rural setting along the Colorado/Wyoming border throughout the past 100 years. I really liked Galvin’s voice – he’s one of those authors who can say a lot with a few words. Interesting characters and sketches, but I always prefer a more linear story, and thought this book suffered from the minimalized roles of women.
Brita Beyerlein
This was a book club pick. I would not have picked this up on my own and had little hope that I would like it after reading the plot synopsis. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed how the chapters switched story lines and narrators but wove a coherent history overall. I don't know that I'd recommend it but I liked it enough to give it three stars.
Corey
Elliptical and impressionistic prose which weaves a tapestry rather than elaborating an extended narrative. This is sort of a poetic Little House on the Prairie for adults, or perhaps a fictional cousin to Gretel Ehrlich's gorgeous memoir, The Solace of Open Spaces.
Pamela Pickering
I just didn't get it. A book chosen by our book club and was panned by all members. It was chosen mainly because it is set in the area which we live (Northern Co/Southern Wy). I'm not sure how to even classify this book: fiction? non-fiction? or a combo of both. I've heard that people who know the author recognize many of the characters in the novel as people they know. There really isn't a story to the book and I was confused by the characters and their roles/purpose. HOWEVER I have mentioned t...more
Teresa
Jul 05, 2014 Teresa added it
Shelves: essay
Inspiration to read: NYTBR interview with Colum McCann June 22 21014. He says "'The Meadow' defies classification - it's a memoir, a scrapbook, a novel and a poem rolled into one. For my sins I live in New York City, and reading about Gavin's landscape calms me and brings me elsewhere. "
David
An underrated, understated synopsis of the real American West. As a poet by trade, James Galvin is not simply telling a good story but has demonstrated a sound ability to evoke raw and honest images of the landscape and the persona of its inhabitants. In short, pointed vignettes independent of chronology, a unique story of the identity of the American West is told. At times touching, at times hilarious, you finish the book wishing you could pack up your apartment and move into a log cabin in the...more
Dan Zoeller
Though I had some difficulty keeping up with the characters and their relationships, the beauty of the prose and ripeness of symbolism made me sigh with nearly every turn of the page.
Carol Dickerson
I love this book. Feels true. Thank you McKinley for recommending it. My only quibble--I would have appreciated a family-tree type (owners and neighbors) of the meadow. I could never figure out how/who the narrator fit in. But the language and the characters are spot on. Seemed like the history of families that might have homesteaded in Mirage, Colorado.
Shawn
I loved this book partially because Katie recommended it as a favorite of hers of the year '010, and because I have visited Tie Siding, WY, and Laramie environs. Also, I particularly liked where there are only a couple of diary pages. I find myself thinking humorously to myself: Jan 1: ate pig, Jan 2: snowed 2 inches, wind blew, Jan 3: sewed shirt, worked in barn. Lastly, a brief quote, for if you can resist this sentence, please do not trouble yourself to read The Meadow. Page 39: "...Ray loved...more
Henry Wright
An archaeological slice of life in a meadow on the Colorado Wyoming border, the Boulder Ridge. Unusual and special.
Phyllis C
My daughter thought I should read this. Deals with local history not far from where we live.
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“The Meadow... Only one of them succeeded in making a life here... He weathered. Before a backdrop of natural beauty, he lived a life from which everything was taken but a place. He lived so close to the real world it almost let him in.” 4 likes
“When we think of our lives as what we have done, memory becomes a museum with one long shelf on which we arrange a bric-a-brac of deeds, each to his own liking.” 0 likes
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