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The Jump-Off Creek

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  974 Ratings  ·  173 Reviews
A reading group favorite, The Jump-Off Creek is the unforgettable story of homesteader Lydia Sanderson and her struggles to settle in the mountains of Oregon in the 1890s. The Jump-Off Creek gives readers an intimate look at the hardships of frontier life and a courageous woman determined to survive.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published August 3rd 2005 by Mariner Books (first published 1989)
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4.5 stars

Have you ever read a story and you didn't want it to end? The Jump-Off Creek was like that for me; it was realistic and interesting. The characters worked their way into my subconscious. I found their plain talk quotable. Often, the weather shaped the historical narrative. Simply said, it reflected depictions of everyday experiences. If I had to use one word to describe my observations, I would say they were earthy.

earthy [ ur-thee ]
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: unsophisticated,
Mar 15, 2009 Jesse rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Oct 12, 2014 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
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
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
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 ...more
Jun 22, 2014 Susanne rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jul 20, 2008 Joy rated it really liked it
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.
"...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.
Denise Novak
Jul 16, 2014 Denise Novak rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 23, 2008 Katrina rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laura McNeal
Sep 24, 2013 Laura McNeal rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 19, 2014 Susan rated it liked it
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).
Oct 31, 2016 Darlene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Oregon frontier in the 1890s was a harsh and stark reality for cowboying whether you were woman or man, with iron determination and loneliness just two of the facets of the hardscrabble existence.
Oct 27, 2016 Dylan rated it really liked it
Somehow I'd always failed to imagine the extent of the impact a homesteading situation would have on personal relationships, and this book illustrates that with stark clarity. The mountain setting fills in the picture with struggles we can still experience echoes of today.
Nov 16, 2016 Hazel rated it really liked it
Read this out loud to hubby; it, like The Heart of Horses, is so well written that each character comes to life. Felt the pain, the aloneness, the joy vividly. Loved.
Mar 30, 2014 Kara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
Sep 16, 2016 Barbara rated it really liked it
I found this title and author while looking for books set in Oregon for a trip there. What a happy find it has been! The main character is a woman who has spent her life working her parent's farm for them and then for her husband. When her husband dies, she sells everything of his in order to buy land in eastern Oregon and farm it on her own. My father came from poor farmers in Nebraska in the early 20th century and the narrative in this book feels so true to the stories he told me. Really ...more
Jan 29, 2016 Rachel rated it really liked it
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
Mar 27, 2012 Tyler rated it it was ok
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
Feb 07, 2016 Brigid rated it really liked it
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
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 ...more
Apr 20, 2016 Lori rated it really liked it
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, ...more
Jul 21, 2014 Natalya rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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
Oct 14, 2008 Renee rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Renee by: Ann Hopkinson
Simple book, simple life, simple people homesteading in the harsh hills of eastern Oregon in the mid 1800's. Main character is an independent women homesteading. A lot of discussion of non verbal communication among all the characters which I thought was an overkill-- The nod of the head, the look over the shoulder. The thin upturned quirk of the mouth. Unspoken language just hung in the air, almost out of respect for the homesteading lady. It dragged on but the book had an unusual style- stark ...more
Jun 20, 2014 Margaret rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Apr 22, 2012 Christina rated it did not like it
This is without a doubt the most boring book I have picked to read this year. Although I hate not finishing a book I came very close to putting this down after the first couple of chapters. Thank heavens it's short.

The characters are dull. The story is flat and despite being in a setting and containing events that had potential to be interesting, it is terribly unexciting. To say that the writing is stiff and awkward is an understatement. I have read "Wild Life" which showed that Molly Gloss is
Wendy Feltham
Dec 16, 2014 Wendy Feltham rated it liked it
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
I know I read this book before. I even had or have a copy signed by the author who I heard speak at PLA in Portland, OR. But I really did not remember the story as it actually is. This is a perfect example of reading a book at the wrong time. All I remembered was the story was hard to follow.

This time round, that was definitely not true. Gloss' style is spare and her characters are living very hard lives, but the story is clear. In my opinion Gloss does an amazing job of showing how hard life wa
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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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