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The Jump-Off Creek

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  928 Ratings  ·  161 Reviews
The profoundly human story of one woman's struggle to homestead in the unforgiving Blue Mountains of the 1890s. Vivid in its descriptions friendship and loss, of daily struggle and attainment, this book offers its readers an unforgettable portrait of a pioneer woman and her ability to be endure.
Paperback, 186 pages
Published September 19th 1990 by Mariner Books (first published 1989)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,849)
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Mar 15, 2009 Jesse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about a woman homesteading alone in the late 19th century in the Pacific Northwest. The writing is quiet, emotionally disciplined, restrained, wasting nothing, without a hint of self-indulgence, like the homesteaders themselves who were able to survive an unforgiving wilderness. If you want to know what these men and women were really like, what kind of personality allowed them to spend two generations simply cutting down trees and hanging onto life by a thread just to call a few ac ...more
Oct 12, 2014 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hard won independence...

THE JUMP-OFF CREEK is the third Molly Gloss tale I've read over the last two days, after"The Hearts of Horses"and "Falling from Horses." That should be your first clue on how highly I am enjoying these books.

Lydia Sanderson, widowed, leaves Pennsylvania and moves across the country with two mules and two goats and all her worldly possessions to homestead a small piece of property in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. It is during the Depression of 1895 and times are very hard
Mar 26, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A female homesteader...yes! I teach Westward Movement to fourth and fifth graders every other year, and it's important for them to understand that pioneer women were every bit as hard core as the men. In fact, they were harder, because everyone treated them worse. This stoic, recently-divorced heroine stays remote from the reader - her physical features, her sex - Gloss clearly intends to keep her anonymous. She's an idea, a bundle of intention and willpower. Molly Gloss, employing the cold and ...more
Oct 27, 2014 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written in sparse, deliberate, precise language. If ever a novel utterly draws the reader into the story & the hearts & minds of its characters which include horses, mules & goats, JUMP OFF CREEK does. Lydia is the brave, determined heroine whom I deeply admire & care for but could never be. Tim is a figure right out of the old cowboys movies but with addition of sensitivity & flaws. The historical details & depiction of the lives of homesteaders in the late 1 ...more
Apr 20, 2016 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many people have recommended this book to me in the past and I don't know why I haven't read it before now. What an amazingly beautiful and simple story of the pioneer spirit. After her husband dies, Lydia Sanderson goes on her own to Oregon to start her own homestead. With pretty much nothing but her own perseverance and a lot of hard work, Lydia manages to make headway in her new life. Along the way she finds friendships with a couple of old cowboys, Tim and Blue, who have their own stories, a ...more
Jun 22, 2014 Susanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At first I thought this was going to be another woman homesteader story like all of the others with a woman struggling to survive but succeeding and eventually marrying and living happily after. However, this story is more realistic than most and probably more accurate of the experience even though I am not sure how Lydia actually was able to survive the elements. Thanks goodness for her mule and her goats. What I liked best about this story was not only the strong communities of women and of me ...more
"...she had not ever found much reward for woefulness."

It is not often that I come across a book that inspires me to reframe my thinking about life and how to live it, but this is one of them.

I'm also in awe of Molly Gloss's prose style and storytelling chops. After reading two of her novels, I believe I've found a new literary idol. Of course, I don't want to be just like her, but I would love to impact my readers in the way she impacts me.

Looking forward to reading the rest of her work.
Mar 30, 2014 Kara rated it really liked it
“I suppose I was seeking the boundless possibilities that are said to live on the frontier.”

Lydia Sanderson came out West to the Blue Mountains region of eastern Oregon in order to take up ranching, but as her comment above admits, she was also lured by the romance of the West and the prospect of starting over, desires that pull people West just as much today as in 1890 when the novel is set. The Jump-Off Creek is the title of the novel and the name of the claim that Lydia purchases after sellin
Jul 20, 2008 Joy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-books
Molly Gloss is rapidly becoming one of my favorite living writers-I'd equate her to Haruf, probably. This book, a tale of a widower who settled a neglected homestead in a remote part of Oregon sticks with you. Although Hearts of horses is probably a better written book, this book is worth the read. Towards the end of the book, I flipped to Gloss's bio and found a kindred spirit when she said she admitted to find a shamefaced love in westerns and especially the tough women in L'Amour's novels.
Denise Novak
Jul 16, 2014 Denise Novak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my! I think this is the best book I've read this summer. What a great narrative that reads like non-fiction. I couldn't put it down and after finishing it, I started to read it again. Lydia Sanderson is a gutsy widow homesteading ALONE in the Blue Mountains of Oregon in the 1890's. I've read a lot of 19th century diaries of those hardy and steadfast women who followed their husbands into the wilds of the American West. This book belongs up there with them.
Trixie Fontaine
One of the most bluntly elegant things about this book is how hard & deeply-needed simple intimacies were scattered in periods of intense isolation: a look, a hug, an awkward visit ... a very few economical words. And just how inevitable loss is.

It's always good to be reminded of how important being careful with resources is/should/can be too when living mired as we are in waste, abundance, and just shitty fucking quality of life and bought products.
Feb 07, 2016 Brigid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Brigid by: Whatcom Reads committee
This is a great story told via Lydia's journal entries and third-person narrative following different characters. Lydia Sanderson "had it mind to come West and take up ranching" after a hard life in Pennsylvania, first with her parents, then her husband. She sells all of her deceased husbands worldly goods and buys a decrepit place on the Jump-off Creek in Oregon's Blue Mountains.
Gloss tells Lydia's story without the usual romanticizing of a pioneer woman's efforts, which I truly appreciated. L
Laura McNeal
Sep 24, 2013 Laura McNeal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Historical fiction is so difficult to write, especially if the historical era has been used as a setting for genre fiction so often that the very mention of certain things feels like a cliche. This book about a woman homesteading by herself in Oregon avoids all the easy and predictable routes and manages to be utterly original and beautifully restrained.
Jul 21, 2014 Natalya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nook
A wonderful period piece which brings to life daily struggles and minutia of settlers in the west, basic needs, survival, need to depend on each other and sheer improbability of survival against the odds of nature, mishaps, bad policies and mischief. It is very raw and real, characters straightforward and plain spoken people, and you get to see the world through their eyes. The atmospheric style reminded me of Lie Down With Lions by Ken Follett, The Burning Hills by Luis L'Amour, some of my fave ...more
Dec 23, 2008 Katrina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 19, 2014 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5. Not as good as I'd hoped it would be. I did enjoy the descriptions of Oregon, though. It just seemed like nothing much happened, and while the characters were interesting, we couldn't get into their heads much. For early Oregon stories, I much preferred Anna Keesey's Little Century (disclaimer: she is a colleague of mine).
Jan 29, 2016 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe more 4.5 stars. I really enjoyed this one particularly because I live in La Grande and have worked in the areas that the book was set in...I know many of the landmarks and the streams/creeks etc.

My issues with the book were pretty minor. The first is what made me knock half a star off...I had a hard time getting really invested in the characters and the story at first and I actually started and stopped this book a few times before making it all the way through. That isn't a criticism -- i
Jun 30, 2014 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Jump-Off Creek is about a woman, sick of the way she was treated by her father and late husband, buys an isolated, run-down farm and survives with two mules and two goats. I like the way that she is brave and determined to make it on her own. The descriptions make you feel cold when it's winter in the book, and feel muddy and stuck when the rain comes everyday. But, I most warn potential readers, lots of animals die in this book. Maybe that's how it was over 100 years ago, but I got sad that ...more
Jun 20, 2014 Margaret rated it liked it
Shelves: western, fiction
I found this book intriguing and yet a bit odd. I did enjoy the detailing of the struggles of Lydia, the main character. I have always been interested in pioneer stories and this fit the ticket in that area though I do think that the characters had great potential but they ultimately fell flat for me. I couldn't get beyond the overwhelming emotional void. There seem to be a running theme of unspoken thoughts and feelings, I have to admit that left me cold and wanting more. I think the "less is m ...more
Aug 09, 2015 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved everything about this book except the ending. It's not a bad ending; it just comes very abruptly as if it's another chapter mid-book. I wasn't expecting that and wanted so much more, which tells you how much I did enjoy the story. The characters are sparsely developed, just like the land and the experience they all have, but it works well for this plot and setting. It contributes to the overall artistry of a stark existence in a harsh place. But it won't be for all readers. I could see tho ...more
Wendy Feltham
This is a rather special book, a novel based on journals kept by pioneer women over a hundred years ago who settled in the west. The protagonist is a fearless woman, Lydia Sanderson, who buys an old shack by a creek in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. She travels there with her mule and goats, and basically survives on goat's milk, as she works the land and gets to know her distant neighbors, including cowboys and wolf hunters. (Nobody is ever on the side of the wolves.) Lydia is strong, and tries ...more
The Jump-off Creek is the story of Lydia Sanderson and her neighbors, dirt poor cattle ranchers in the blue mountains near modern day La Grande, Oregon. Set in the 1890s, Lydia is a very strange sight-- a widow who sold everything she had to come West and buy her own ranch. She is stubborn, hard-working, and fiercely independent. She surprises just about everyone with her determination and tenacity in overcoming the challenges of life alone on the frontier. What most would call a man's life.

I re
Michelle Grindstaff
This was an interesting read and I wouldn't have come across it if it wasn't for the 2015 reading challenge that I started. This book moved slowly, but it had a compelling effect once I settled into it. My experience was similar to watching the movie True Grit. I don't usually go for that sort of thing, but this was a convincing and well crafted narrative of people facing an extremely difficult way of life.

2015 Reading Challenge: read a book by an author with my initials
Yakking Yogini
Pioneer fiction is not a genre I enjoy (with the exception of the Little House books), but every good librarian really should read a title or two by Molly Gloss, a Portland author who enjoys writing about what homesteading in Oregon was like during the late 1890's. What I liked about the book is that it grew on me: it's slow pace, and attention to daily life and struggles of our brave progenitors gave me an appreciation of the life of ease that we now live, partly due to the pioneers literally c ...more
Jun 10, 2014 Rml rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story of a frontier's woman homesteading in Oregon put me right into that time and place. Perhaps because I'm a champion of strong women. The story ends at just the right place leaving the reader to figure out whether she succeeded on her own, or not. I've been to the part of Oregon where this takes place and the author does a great job of bringing the feel of the place into the reader's clarity.
Nov 07, 2011 Jakki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Women who enjoy stories of strong females surviving difficult times
Recommended to Jakki by: Judy Jernberg
What a story of an amazing widowed pioneer woman making it on her own as a Homesteader in an unforgiving land - she probably represents many of the strong, determined, independent women of that time facing what to me would be overwhelming weather obstacles let alone wild animals and unsavory men with ideas of their own. How would you like to worry about your hair literally freezing during the night when the temperature got too low or having to clean out too many rat traps in the morning when you ...more
Jill Myers
Feb 21, 2016 Jill Myers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wonder, why is it that we are drawn to certain genres of books?
Unaccountably, I enjoy books where pioneering is the backdrop of the entire story. I like reading about the protagonists life and death struggles, the hard labor, the animals and gardening, cooking and perseverance. If you like that type of thing too then I recommend you read this book!
First sentence: 6 April Bought the black hinny Mule today, $18, also the spavint gray as my money is so short and I have hope he will put on wt, his eyes are clear w a smart look in them and his feet not tender.

Favorite quote: none

This story was boring, slow, disjointed, lacked a true flowing story line and one I would not recommend.
Apr 22, 2015 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Five stars are for the writing. I ate up every word. It was written so beautifully, so eloquently and so true to character and style I was in awe. The story, the characters just felt... true. Real. It isn't an easy story, it isn't all tied up in a pretty happy-story bow. But it is a wonderful exploration of people and character. I loved it. I love Lydia Sanderson, and I loved this book.
Jun 13, 2016 Susan rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this unique book about a woman homesteader in the late 1800's in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. This book was so good that it easily could have been expanded and continued into a much longer story. That said, I have a feeling that this one might appeal to a smaller group of folks - those with an interest in Western US history in particular. I REALLY liked it and will continue to read more by this talented author!
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Molly Gloss is a fourth-generation Oregonian who lives in Portland.

Her novel The Jump-Off Creek was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for American Fiction, and a winner of both the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and the Oregon Book Award. In 1996 Molly was a recipient of a Whiting Writers Award.

The Dazzle of Day was named a New York Times Notable Book and was awarded the PEN Center
More about Molly Gloss...

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