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All the Little Live Things

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  2,215 Ratings  ·  277 Reviews
Joe Allston, the retired literary agent of Stegner's National Book Award-winning novel, The Spectator Bird, returns in this disquieting and keenly observed novel. Scarred by the senseless death of their son and baffled by the engulfing chaos of the 1960s, Allston and his wife, Ruth, have left the coast for a California retreat. And although their new home looks like Eden, ...more
Kindle Edition, 354 pages
Published (first published 1967)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Wallace Stegner was a very meditative writer. This, I think, is why some people have a hard time getting through his books. There's a lot of rumination on the part of the characters, while the plot sits on the back burner. With some authors this drives me crazy, but with Stegner I somehow have the patience to stay with the writing and savor it. I think it's because he articulated so many truths and feelings I've personally experienced. He handled difficult themes in such a soft way, with the per ...more
Dec 04, 2012 Merilee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I have loved all of Stegner's novels I've read so far (Angle of Repose, Crossing to Safety, Spectator Bird), this one seems a little bit dated. In this companion to Spectator Bird, almost 70 Joe Allston rants and raves about the hippie barbarians doing their thing on a bit of his property in 1967 Los Altos Hills/Woodside. I kind of wish I had read this in 1967 when it was published, and I was still at Stanford, and Stegner was still in the nearby hills. I have no idea how autobiographical ...more
Dec 15, 2013 Laysee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“All The Little Live Things” is a title that connotes for me sprightliness, energy, and the promise of goodness. It was none of these things. It was, in fact, a very painful book to read, and were it not for the beauty of Stegner’s prose, I might have given it up. It is not a book to read when one is feeling wretched and vulnerable.

Written in 1967, it preceded The Spectator Bird (1976), winner of the 1977 National Book Award, which continued the story of Joe and Ruth Allston who lost their son,
Mar 08, 2010 Nancy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books of all time is Stegner's CROSSING TO SAFETY--it was a very profound story of the transformational potential of friendship. This book also explored that theme, but from such a painful perspective that I suffered as I read.

Stegner's writing is beautiful, but the anger and social prejudice expressed in this novel did not appeal to me. I believe that he was an English professor at Stanford in the late 60's when this book was written. I can only imagine that as he anticipated
Dec 25, 2012 Vic rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some stories are pure entertainment. Some are built for other purposes, as with Wallace Stegnar’s, All The Live Little Things. There was not much that I found entertaining, but if I measure the story by it’s impact on me, by it’s provocative nature and wide open doorway to self-reflection, then it was a fabulous piece of writing.

My feelings about the book were hard won. I found the beginning slow going, the writing a bit dated and the whole experience laborious. I had trouble relating to the cha
I always seem to reread this in rhythm or synchronicity with something in life. I actually listened to it, and I was addicted to Edward Herrmann's voice, it was a perfect complement to the narrator's personality, and I wonder again and again why this book is so powerful to me. Set in the 60's with a curmudgeonly charmer who has conservative views in the sleepwalking of his retirement. I don't identify with that, and I really actually don't identify with the most important female character, Maria ...more
Jul 09, 2015 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, audible
Much of the first half of the book is typical story setup: introduction of characters, setting the scene, and the like, which is fine, although it's dragged out here with the focus on squatter Jim Peck (technically, he has Joe's grudging permission to stay on the property). As the hippie-ish young man makes himself gradually into a more permanent fixture, than just pitching tent, Joe's level of resentment grows ... as did my fatigue. Second half of the story contains flashbacks to Joe's past, th ...more
May 05, 2009 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one was hard to read because Stegner lets you know, in the first few pages, that it will be sad, and it's heavy on introspection. The narrator/main character is lovable and infuriating, funny but unwilling to bend or change. He figures things out the hard way. I wept through the final chapters.
Wallace Stegner is one of my favorite authors, and this book just solidified that. It's beautifully written, the story is mesmerizing, for me. Stegner writes about people and everyday life so quietly stunningly that the reader is unaware of getting enmeshed in the story. Joe Allston and his wife, Ruth, retired to a small rural town in California after the death of their only child, a son -- an unruly young man who defies his educated parents in every way. The couple seeks peace.

Along comes Jim P
Daniel Kerr
I just finished the book 30 minutes ago and it ends up as quite a beating. I would call it overwrought and too sentimental in tone, and unconvincing in the pace of the development of Marian and Joe’s relationship. The underlying philosophies at work I won't attempt to unpack at the moment but I don’t see much hope in any of it. Probably not by coincidence, the author somewhat successfully creates in the reader what Allston experienced himself – the anticipation of pain and the experience of it a ...more
Jan 29, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stegner is a master craftsman. I have read Crossing to Safety and Angel of Repose and fell in love with his prose. This particular book came as a recommendation from a friend who lived during the turbulent era of the late 60s as a new professor on college campus in the Midwest The book captures in the dialogue of the main characters the ideological tensions of that era. However, this is also a powerful book about human connection, sacrifice, self absorption, and significant loss as it explores t ...more
Angie Palau
May 10, 2013 Angie Palau rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I complained that my last read lacked character development ("Foundation"), this book is the antidote. It is nearly ALL character development - peering inside the head of curmudgeonly old Joe Allston. He's not always likeable, but he's always entertaining in his crotchety, clever honesty.

It's a beautifully written, vividly descriptive tale - so much so that I can smell and taste and feel that summer in California in the 60s. I'm always amazed when authors can use words to paint a tangible pic
S.E. Flynn
Jun 17, 2009 S.E. Flynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best insider-views of marriage I've read, from the point of view of a husband who is aware, awake, and lives with a strong connection to the values he has chosen to govern his life. What really strikes me is the authenticity of his relationship with his wife- sometimes he feels distant, sometimes close, but almost always she evokes a response or feeling in him with her commentary and observations. For me, it captures the wonderfully weird experience of being connected to another human ...more
Feisty Harriet
Feb 04, 2016 Feisty Harriet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Listening to Edward Herrmann read Stegner aloud has got to be one of the most delightful things in literature. This story follows Joe and his wife Ruth for about 6 months; they are retired and making a new life in rural Northern California and trying to fit in (or not) with various neighbor-characters. But, that's not really what the book is about. Driving an exciting, twisting plot line is not Stegner's style, but he is a master at delving into humanity and all our facets and bringing the good ...more
Erik Dabel
May 04, 2012 Erik Dabel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Powerful, powerful book. A book that, when you finish, you can do nothing but sit back and contemplate what matters in life. No, that's not quite right. You contemplate why everything matters in life. The good and the bad, the controllable and uncontrollable, the mundane and the life ending. Every little thing, no matter how insignificant or utterly destructive, must happen the way it happens. To turn your head away would be to ignore life itself.
Jan 17, 2016 Sherri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Slow-moving and sentimental, but I loved it anyway because of Stegner's writing. The story plods along at times, but then Stegner slips in something so beautifully written and true that it pulls you up short. His books always give me a lot to think about, and this one was no different.

The book tries to grapple with the horrible, random and unfair things that can happen in a life that also contains intense beauty and joy. He (and his characters) consider the choice we all have to retreat and hide
This was such a tender, thoughtful book, about a late-middle aged suburban couple retiring from the world in into the Bay Area countryside, and encountering a trespassing hippie couple who troubles their retreat. Beautifully written, honest and without melodrama, considering the issues of the sixties as only a novel can. I found I preferred this contemporary West to his historical works--belongs on the shelf with Updike and Bellow as well as Kesey.
Mar 07, 2013 Lobstergirl rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Rand Paul
Shelves: got-rid-of, fiction

Stegner writes well, but the subject matter - a California retiree clashing with the hippie he allows to squat on his property, hippie culture and free love, and the retiree and his wife's friendship with a young couple affected by cancer, did not appeal to me. I felt trapped in the 60s and it was not pleasant.
Aug 07, 2015 Melanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2015
So, so good. Read my review here
Jan 11, 2015 Kay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title implies that the book will be happy and light and maybe give the peace and joy that Joe and his wife, Ruth are seeking when they move to California. They are dealing with the death (and apparent suicide) of their son and hope to find peace in the countryside. Instead, they- or at least he- finds aggravation and more sorrow, but they also get the chance to love someone truly special in the character of Marian. As I read, I was so frustrated that only Joe and me seemed to think it was NO ...more
Apr 13, 2011 Tara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"All the Little Live Things" is the second Stegner novel that I have read, and it is just as beautifully written and poignantly thought provoking as the last. I love how Stegner’s style and his characters make me think about my own life and point of view. For me this book was a real enjoyment. The story centers on Joe Allston and his wife Ruth who have recently retired to a country house in Northern California. Their retirement, however, is not just meant to be an escape from their careers but a ...more
Zoe Jussel
Jul 07, 2013 Zoe Jussel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Again, Wallace Stegner has done it for me, in this intimate novel of life, death, nature, accepting and learning. There is always so much of the author in his books, which I enjoy. Revolving around an elderly couple's relationship and deep abiding friendship with a younger couple who have moved to nearby land, as neighbors. Cranky Joe and his kind wife, Ruth, befriend the young couple and become almost the parents they didn't have. Each teaching the other what goes around and around in this big ...more
Ed Vaughn
Nov 24, 2014 Ed Vaughn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stegner was a wonderful writer. I read "Angle of Repose" years ago so I grabbed this up. This a sequel to his award winning "The Spectator Bird"(which I have yet to read.) His protagonist is Joe Allston, retired and living with his wife on their ranchette in Central California. his adversary is a hippie squatter that has smooth talked his way into living in the woods on Allston's land. Allston is the angry parent (as Holden Caulfield is Salinger's angry youth) and the hippie reminds him of his o ...more
Feb 28, 2014 Jill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have decided that many of Stegner's books have seemingly sweet, light titles, but when you open the book, there is so much complexity and heaviness that the titles seem unmatched with the story, not exactly, but kind of. I think I would actually give this book 3 1/2 stars, and if he had left out the crazy hippie side characters, I might even give it five because it was so beautiful and endearing on other levels. I am still impressed with his ability to write about and understand people and how ...more
Joyce Reynolds-Ward
Well-written, but dated, and unfortunately while I like some of Stegner's work, this isn't one of those books that I like. The retired grumpy male protagonist and his wife frequently appear in other Stegner stories and when they're around, well, things don't come out so nicely for the other characters. The inevitability of bad things happening to everyone around Joe Allston as he observes, powerless to stop the cavalcade of disasters cascading around him is almost too much, though I'd reserve th ...more
L.V. Sage
Just finished this novel last night. Wow! An all-encompassing emotional ride from beginning to end, this story pulls you into the small, intimate world of a few key characters. Joe and Ruth are keen to live a relatively sheltered retirement in a small, rural Northern California town where they can nap, bird watch and take long walks. Enter Jim Peck, a young, hedonistic demi-God who wears a wild beard, unkempt hair and flashing eyes. After convincing Joe to let him camp on the land, a succession ...more
Jean Carlton
Aug 06, 2015 Jean Carlton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 stars again for one of my favorite authors; the sheer pleasure of reading Stegner's prose is separate in some ways from any story he is telling. Torn between wanting to stop and re-read lovely passages and wanting to go on to discover more, I am in awe of his style. Characters are fascinating and deep, human and relatable, relationships are complex, the way he times the telling of things you already know are coming but you crave the details... love it all.
Obviously I recommend it.
Steve Smits
Mar 13, 2015 Steve Smits rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is a sequel to The Spectator Bird. Joe and Ruth Allston have returned to California from abroad, trying to find and achieve some measure of contentment in a rhythm of retired life. Joe is still deeply affected by the death of his son and in this book we find out more about his wayward son and Joe’s difficult relationship with him.

Into their lives come several neighbors about whom Joe has strong feelings that tell us much about his state of mind and about the complex relationships acr
Sep 21, 2014 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Wallace Stegner and I enjoyed this book but it's started to sound very "dated" now. There's a great deal of chaos in the late 1960's and Joe Allston (who also appeared in The Spectator Bird) is having trouble keeping up with and understanding the societal changes. He comes off as a bit of a curmudgeon and isn't entirely likeable. But Stegner is a marvelous writer and has a keen understanding of the human condition. This is certainly worth reading.
Feb 26, 2013 Brad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Loved this book. No one explores the beautiful and tragic in life like Stegner. The book is worth reading for the imagery alone, but it also brings to life one of the most memorable characters in recent memory--Marian. She will haunt for days to come. I am still grappling with the purpose of the scene on the bridge at the end, however the book left me with a new appreciation for every little live thing in my own world.
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Wallace Earle Stegner was an American historian, novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist. Some call him "The Dean of Western Writers." He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 and the U.S. National Book Award in 1977.
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“It is the beginning of wisdom when you recognize that the best you can do is choose which rules you want to live by, and it's persistent and aggravated imbecility to pretend you can live without any.” 79 likes
“There is a sense in which we are all each other's consequences.” 47 likes
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