Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Wolf Willow” as Want to Read:
Wolf Willow
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Wolf Willow

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  502 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
Wallace Stegner weaves together fiction and nonfiction, history and impressions, childhood remembrance and adult reflections in this unusual portrait of his boyhood. Set in Cypress Hills in southern Saskatchewan, where Stegner's family homesteaded from 1914 to 1920, Wolf Willow brings to life both the pioneer community and the magnificent landscape that surrounds it. This ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published December 1st 2000 by Penguin Books (first published October 28th 1962)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Wolf Willow, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Wolf Willow

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,311)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nov 09, 2014 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The plain spreads southward below the Trans-Canada Highway, an ocean of wind-troubled grass and grain. It has its remembered textures: winter wheat heavily headed, scoured and shadowed as if schools of fish move in it; spring wheat with its young seed-rows as precise as combings in a boy's wet hair; gray-brown summer fallow with the weeds disked under; and grass, the marvelous curly prairie wool tight to the earth's skin, straining the wind as the wheat does, but in its own way, secretly."

May 07, 2007 grant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has no right to be so absorbing. Though the topic of this forgotten book by Wallace Stegner reeks of self-indulgence-- A writer returns to where he grew up, reminisces about his youth and the history of the frontier town his transient childhood most identified as home and concludes with a 100-page fictionalized account of a the terrible winter of 1906-- he manages to tie his past inexorably to ours, linking his nostalgia for his youth with our own, and exploring the promise and inevita ...more
Apr 21, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This wonderful collection of essays and fiction about the last Western frontier is both romance and anti-romance. Writing in the 1950s, Stegner captures the breath-taking beauty of the unbroken plains of southwest Saskatchewan and the excitement of its settlment at the turn of the century. Part memoir, the book recounts the years of his boyhood in a small town along the Whitemud River in 1914-1919, the summers spent on the family's homestead 50 miles away along the Canadian-U.S border. His book ...more
Mar 23, 2016 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
WOLF WILLOW. (1962). Wallace Stegner. ****.
This book by Stegner consists of a collection of essays previously published in a variety of magazines and journals. Stegner managed to edit them so that they became a coherent whole, but there were significant differences in style among them depending on the subject of each. Aside from that, this was a marvelous “…history, a Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier.” What he did was to select the spot in Canada where his father chose to homestea
Jun 03, 2016 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know why it took me so long to get through this. I liked it...I think it was because the chapters were too long for it to be an effective bedside table book. I kept falling asleep, no fault of the book.
I chose this because I like Stegner's writing and this is kind of in the world of my studies - it's about his childhood right on the border between Saskatchewan and Montana. He writes about existing in two worlds, in a way. In the winter they lived and went to school in town, celebrated C
Apr 15, 2016 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've always considered Wallace Stegner one of America's best authors. This book only confirmed my admiration of his writing. It's a book about a place--a place where the author lived, and a place with a colorful history. Stegner wrote of the tumultuous history of the native peoples in northern Montana and southern Saskatchewan who were caught up in trying to maintain their homeland in the face of European settler expansion, of the U.S. and Canadian surveying of the 49th parallel, the Hudson Bay' ...more
Lydia Presley
When I describe this book to my friends I talk about the beauty of the language, the lyricism of the story, and liken it to watching a three-hour movie filled with beautiful scenery that makes you ache, but still, it's a movie of scenery.

That's not to say I didn't love Wolf Willow. I found it to be gorgeous and once I figured out what the format was and learned to appreciate the description, metaphors, and the insights into the lives of those who live on the Great Plains, I really started to get
I almost quit reading this so many times! It took me 7 months to get through it, though it's only 300 pages. I was quite bored with much of it. I think the only reason I persevered was because it was Wallace Stegner, and I love his other stuff. The man can really write. This book is part historical fiction, part memoir, and part history...a rather eclectic and unpleasant mix for me. I like to keep fact and fiction distinctly separate, because I hate having to guess which is which. It has an odd ...more
May 29, 2014 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Wolf Willow is a personal memoir by Wallace Stegner, whose fiction and non-fiction writings capture a deep sense of the western places he called home during the early part of his life. The book takes its title from a willow particular to the Cypress Hills, the area of southern Saskatchewan where Stegner spent part of his early years. Unlike many memoirists and fiction writers from small, rural towns, Stegner writes not as one who was cynical and embitterered by the experience. Rather, he recogni ...more
Mar 16, 2012 Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a westerner madly in love with mountains, deserts and history of my homeland, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I haven't delved much into Wallace Stegner. I've read a tiny bit of his non-fiction, and none of his novels, but everybody who's anybody west of the 100th meridian knows all about this guy and recommends him...

And now I think I get it. Stegner nails the "sense of place" thing with this one, a combination of history and memoir, with an unforgettable novella dropped in smack dab
Sarah Sammis
I wish I could remember the name of every author and every book I've ever read. I can't. My memory is reliable for about a year's worth of reading. After that only the most remarkable books (good and bad) stick. To aid my memory I have a list of everything I've read going back to 1987. Despite my list keeping I'm still surprised sometimes when I "rediscover" an author. I've mentioned this happening with Neil Gaiman and now it's happened with Wallace Stegner.

Wallace Stegner was a Canadian author
Description: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner's boyhood was spent on the beautiful and remote frontier of the Cypress Hills in southern Saskatchewan, where his family homesteaded from 1914 to 1920. In a recollection of his years there, Stegner applies childhood remembrance and adult reflection to the history of the region to create this wise and enduring portrait of a pioneer community existing on the verge of a modern world.

The geologist who surveyed southern Saskatchewan in the 18
May 31, 2015 Amari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A quiet and remarkable tome comprising an unusual range of styles in fiction, essays, and historical musings. I was not able to read every word as some of the subject matter went beyond the bounds of my interest in prairie life. However, the first few chapters as well as some of the fiction and the epilogue contained some of the most meaningful prose I've ever read. Given the sensitivity and incisiveness of his writing, I am puzzled that Wallace Stegner is not more commonly mentioned in conversa ...more
David Jacobson
Jul 24, 2015 David Jacobson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book starts our very slowly with a self-important introduction and several dry, historical chapters. However, the book really comes into its own in the hundred-page-long chapter, about halfway through, called "Genesis"; it is essentially a little novel in its own right, focusing on a of group cowboys (all excellently rendered characters) traveling across the plains during a terrible blizzard in 1906. The book then concludes with a few chapters of reminiscences from the author's youth, homes ...more
This is a book of memoirs and loosely constructed stories inspired by the landscape and history of a vast area of prairie that straddles what is now the Canada-U.S. border: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana - including the Milk River (where the author's family homesteaded in the early years of the 20th century) and the Cypress Hills.
Wolf Willow was a real find for me, because the neurons in my brain start firing madly when I encounter a landscape with a vivid sense of place and of history - especi
Aug 27, 2014 MaryJo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First published in 1962, this "memoir" is part history, part biography, part story of the relationship between peoples and landscape. It is an account the Cypress Hills, in southwestern Saskatchewan, where Stegner lived as a young boy, moving there when his father homesteaded a quarter of a section of land for wheat farming 1914. Stegner was five. Drought killed his father's dreams of becoming a wheat farmer, and by 1920 the family moved to Great Falls, Montana then to Salt Lake City. This colle ...more
Mar 07, 2014 Kbell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Big Rock Candy Mountain, and this was a natural successor. Wolf Willow is not only a journey of nostalgia but also the natural history of a remote area that Stegner felt was instrumental in his development as a person. It seems from other reviews that people have a difficult time with the diversity of the writings in the book -- some personal musings, some natural history, some Canadian history, and a short story. I felt that Stegner set it up perfectly, giving the reader a backdrop of t ...more
Mike Harper
Stegner can sure write!
I found this book difficult. There are passages downright lyrical, and lengthy parts for which I did not care.
One long chapter is historical fiction, and that's very good. It's about a cattle roundup, and it's a harrowing, realistic story. Much of the book deals with Stegner's thoughts about his boyhood home in Saskatchewan, and that part is mixed. I'd have been bored by it, but for the wonderful prose.
Stegner's great novels are the place to start. After you're a committe
Jun 16, 2014 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wolf Willow book is a memoir, history, and novel piled into one. I think I saw it called a "librarian's nightmare" one time. The brilliance of the technique is that straddling these three styles best conveys to the reader what it is/was like living in a certain place. Stegner speaks about his memories in revisiting a town where he lived for awhile as a child; he also pulls in all sorts of interesting facts about American Indians in the region, wolfers, mounties, settlers, and topographers to com ...more
Rachel Terry
Mar 18, 2010 Rachel Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: west, memoir
Wallace Stegner is one of my top 10 favorite writers (don't ask me who the others are--I haven't thought that far ahead). In this book, Stegner returns to Saskatchewan where he lived as a child from 1914 to 1920. He wants to substantiate his childhood memories and learn about the area's impact on his life. He goes farther than his own memories by interviewing other people and researching the area. His insights are powerful. This book really made me think.

The reason I only gave it 4 stars is beca
Ronald Wise
Jul 23, 2011 Ronald Wise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I began reading this "autobiography" with great anticipation and was not disappointed. Stegner had already proven himself to me as a master storyteller when it came to portraying the spirit and hardships of the westward-bound pioneers of North America in his earlier autobiographical novel The Bis Rock Candy Mountain (1943) and his later Pulitzer-Prize winning biographical novel Angle of Repose (1971). This book is considered his non-fiction autobiography, though it, too, is a wonderful mixture o ...more
Jeffrey  Sylvester
Feb 13, 2014 Jeffrey Sylvester rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being from Southwest Saskatchewan, and having descended from a vast array of prairie settlers, I was drawn to “Wolf Willow” for nostalgic reasons.

Similar to “Nellie McClung” by Charlotte Gray, Stegner’s work helped me to envision what life was like for my forebears whether they had suffered deprivation or were well-to-do.

As a history curious kid, Fort Walsh was always my favourite haunt whether in comparison to Mt. Rushmore, the ghost towns of British Columbia or Writing-on-Stone-Park in Alber
Rey Dekker
Wolf Willow Viking Press, 1955 Penguin Books (New York, London; 1990) Stegner, Wallace Earle (1909 - 1993)

As an adjunct to the HIST431 course the book has merit. I especially enjoyed the opening pages where Stegner turns some memorable phrases: "...rattle the eyes in your head" (p. 3) and "In a jumpy and insecure childhood where all masculine elements are painful or dangerous, sanctuary matters." (p. 22). So far so good. Then the author abruptly veers into Louis L'amour Land specifically in the
Oct 26, 2009 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Miltons
Recommended to Diane by: John OConnor
Thanks to John at Bonners Books for this book. Wallace spent several years of his youth living around Cypress Hills in Saskatchewan on the Montana and Alberta borders. The book is part memoir, part Canada History and part novella. The memoir and the history happily intermingle.I loved the memoir parts since my parents grew up in Alberta and this summer we spent an afternoon trying to find the my grandfather's and later my uncle's farm. I also enjoyed Wallace's take on Canadian - actually western ...more
Nov 19, 2012 itpdx rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I have decided to call this a biography of a place. Wallace Stegner spent some very formative years growing up in a small town and homestead just north of the US-Canadian border. The town that Stegner calls Whitemud (actually Eastend, Saskatchewan) is just forming as he arrives with his family in about 1915. The outer shell of the book is his return as an adult. Then a layer of his family's experiences. The next layer is the history of the area--from the geology, to the arrival of the horse and ...more
Jan 18, 2016 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What started as a compilation of essays about southern Saskatchewan near the Alberta border turned into a mesmerizing account of the harshest winter of the 20th century and the cowboys who survived. Just when I thought I would quit, the next chapter would capture me, and I'm so glad I read the book to the end. I spent several years just west of that area, and much like Doig, Stegner captured the beauty and the history of the unforgiving prairie and the people who lived there.
Aug 20, 2016 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stegners childhood story is fascinating but the fictional piece (Genesis) is masterful. He narrates a 10 day cattle drive in the dead of winter in SE Saskatchewan in the midst of constant blizzard in 1906-1907, a year that killed the growing cattle industry in the province. Stegner's language skills are remarkable. He wrote this book in 1955.
Jaco Kleynhans
Dec 09, 2015 Jaco Kleynhans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I added Wallace Stegner to my favorites among Kent Haruf and Annie Proulx. This was my first Stegner book and I've already ordered others. This is really a beautiful story of a place where the reader can really feel as if he/she is there in person.
Autobiographical and Canadian History. Wallace Stegner returns to the plains of Western Saskatchewan where hsi family spent 5 years homesteading. While walking around the town where they wintered, 50 miles from the homestead, he smells a familiar smell, which when he identifies it and inhales the smell of wolf willow, he is transported back into his youth just like Proust and the madelaine. He gives the history of Western incursions into these desolate and unforgiving plains. An illuminating acc ...more
Josephine Ensign
An odd little book that doesn't quite hang together well. My main take-away was learning a new word: foehn, to describe the hot, dry wind that blew across the family farm north of the Montana line.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 43 44 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Perfection of the Morning: A Woman's Awaking in Nature
  • I Married the Klondike
  • The Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning
  • A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape
  • Hole in the Sky: A Memoir
  • A Sort Of Life
  • A Woman's Story
  • Poets in Their Youth
  • Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived
  • Composing a Life
  • Last of the Curlews
  • Heart Earth
  • Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont: A Penguin Lives Biography
  • The Island Within
  • Drinking the Rain: A Memoir
  • Incidents in the Life of Markus Paul
  • Old Jules
  • The Land of Little Rain
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.
More about Wallace Stegner...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“No one who has studied Western history can cling to the belief that the Nazis invented genocide.” 14 likes
“A muddy little stream, a village grown unfamiliar with time and trees. I turn around and retrace my way up Main Street and park and have a Coke in the confectionery store. It is run by a Greek, as it used to be, but whether the same Greek or another I would not know. He does not recognize me, nor I him. Only the smell of his place is familiar, syrupy with old delights, as if the ghost of my first banana split had come close to breathe on me.” 3 likes
More quotes…