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Breaking Clean

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  763 ratings  ·  119 reviews
In this extraordinary literary debut third-generation homesteader Judy Blunt describes her hardscrabble life on the prairies of eastern Montana in prose as big and bold as the landscape.

On a ranch miles from nowhere, Judy Blunt grew up with cattle and snakes, outhouse and isolation, epic blizzards and devastating prairie fires. She also grew up with a set of rules and role
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 7th 2003 by Vintage (first published 2002)
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Judy Blunt's Breaking Clean continued my recent trend of reading books about the West, and like most of the Western authors I've picked up recently, Blunt tells her story in a sparse, no-holds-barred way that I both appreciate and identify with. She takes it one step further, though, making explicit her thoughts and feelings about the role of women in the West in a way that other writers (Annie Proulx and Pam Houston come to mind) haven't. The book is simply fabulous.

Breaking Clean is a fairly c
Mar 31, 2008 Rosana rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Rosana by: Sarah
Shelves: memoirs-diaries, 2008
Well, I actually live on a prairie ranch 50 miles from the closest town, so Judy Blunt’s memoir certainly resonates with me. Her insights are written with an almost poetic prose and her voice conveys great strength. I envy her ability to articulate with such clarity the complex web of human relations that are so hardly shaped by the prairie environment and history. The struggle – and pain - to conform to gender roles; the isolation of long winters and muddy spring roads; the distrust of anything ...more
I saw so much of myself, my family & community in this book. Powerful, thoughtfully written, brought me to tears & laughter on the same page. Blunt captures the voice of the ranchwoman perfectly. This book forced me to look at the uneasy pull between wanting to emulate your grandmother's grace & strength & the desire to leave behind the ranch way of life that limits women's choices & voice.

Judy Blunt’s memoir Breaking Clean is a crisp, sharp, enjoyable read. Blunt carries her reader through a wide range of emotions as she travels through her youth in Montana. Her writing is engaging in its simplicity. Her subject matter, in many ways, familiar.
Though few of us have experienced Big Sky country and all of the harsh realities that go with that life, especially as a child, we have all experienced isolation, disappointment, parental abandonment, and rebellions in one way or another.
Judy Blunt was born in mid-century northern Montana, a hardscrabble land where men held power and women put up and shut up. Breaking Clean is a haunting series of essays about Blunt's childhood and marriage in this place of stark beauty and isolation - a place she eventually left to find her own voice and her value as a human being.

I read an article in which Blunt stated that her book was not necessarily about her journey away from ranch life, but rather about her struggle to stay. Her strength,
I had this book sitting on my shelves for quite some time because I wasn't sure if I could handle reading it or not. This back covers mention growing up in a world and a culture where women are not viewed as equal, which strikes a bit too close to home for me in some ways. I am glad I was finally willing to pick it up and dive in, though. The author is quite gifted in painting with words the world of the prairie out on the Highline in Montana and the joys and struggles of growing up in a hand-to ...more
This book is fantastic. It was the first time I read a memoir that truly moved me and I have not forgotten the story after all these years. In fact, I think of this author often. I grew up in Montana, but not the area she describes, and I think it's a fascinating tale for anyone from anywhere. I loved the tone she took to describe her experiences and how she processed them and the actions she felt she had to take. I think I read later that she became a professor of writing (U of M in Missoula?) ...more
I devoured this book. And I am so impressed and excited to know that I am going to have the opportunity to receive instruction from a writer that has so clearly captured a voice of many women.

As I read this book, it made me think of my Mom, once a farmer's wife. Tending a land and living in a house that would never be hers. Judy captures that voice so realisticly that my skin crawled with anger and injustice at the Man's world of inheritance and power.

I highly recommend this book.
I have been on a bit of Western kick lately. I heard about this memoir from an article on books of the New West. Two of the five books I absolutely loved (Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge and James Galvin's The Meadow) and this was the only one of the other three that the library had. So I gave it a go.

Since I read about it alongside the two previously mentioned books, I was probably constantly comparing them. And this book simply did not stand up to them. As far as memoirs go, it was OK. Blunt te
Stories are the lessons of a year or a decade or a life broken into chunks you can swallow. But the heart of a story lies in the act of telling, the passing on. (pg. 136) - Too bad Ms. Blunt did not take her own words to heart.

Like [a previous reder], I was hoping for more about life in the Midwest;Having read this book, I am unsure exactly what it was meant to convey.
Growing up in a small town, I could relate to her discriptions of the "eyes" that saw your every move, even when your parents wer
...I feel like the author has ADHD. She is all over the place and it's hard to keep track of events.

Breaking Clean is about the authors life growing up on a remote farm in Montana set in the 1950's. Her hardships, poverty, isolation, education, and returning to farm and isolation as a young married wife.

I read that Judy Blunt was gaining recognition much like Frank McCourt with her style of writing, her story, and similarities of poverty. Unfortunately, I cannot agree. The only similarity they s
I had a hard time with this book - and I had a lot of questions afterwards. Why couldn't she be happy where she was? Why couldn't she make her husband understand and treat her like a partner? Ok - if I must be honest- I think her LACK of communication was a huge part of it. And mabye that's the point - the "voice" she talks about finding took her that long. She shut out her husband from the beginning - couldn't talk to him, couldn't stand up for herself with the in-laws, etc.

I wonder about her k
Nov 19, 2008 Audrey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who's parents/grandparents worked the land
Judy Blunt was a third generation ranch wife in Montana. She literally broke free of that life in her 30's, moved her kids to Missoula to get her degree and is now a writer there. The writing is clean and frank. It gave me a very vivid image of farm life and I actually feel like I learned some things about animals and crops (or learned enough to know I need to learn). She describes that life so well but without judgment - it just is. It helped me understand how hard small farmers work and how so ...more
Cher Johnson
I loved this book. She's a great writer, and every time I put the book down I couldn't wait to pick it up again. Another reviewer commented on her many skills (training horses, birthing calves, growing a huge vegetable garden and canning, etc., all while raising three children) Often the cruel truth of what it's like for humans and animals to live in a such a harsh physical climate and in such an unyielding social structure would leave me feeling sad and bruised, but then her adventures and triu ...more
Wonderful writing in this memoir! Blunt takes the reader right inside her life--and her mind--and the journey is sometimes painful, the emotion raw. If I had any complaint it would be that the telling is a little fragmented with experiences related out of chronological order which had me needing to go back to read the first chapter or so again after finishing the book.

This book really packs a punch and made me think; I definitely won't be forgetting it any time soon. 3.5 to 4 stars
Kristine Stevens
A well written, engaging look into the author's childhood and the struggle that led to her adulthood. Considering how strongly she connected with the vast Montana landscape and how that love was overshadowed by the sexist expectations/demands made of rancher wives, I was disappointed that there was no scene of the moment when she decided to break from that rural life and her rancher husband and relocate with her three children to the big city of Missoula. This life-altering shift was probably th ...more
Loved it....this woman "grew up" in the same country, the same year as I, but seems like another era!!!! What a difference growing up on the open plains....and we thought we were "in the country" here in the midwest.
Yet another of a combination to which I'm strongly drawn: excellent descriptions of place mixed with a strong woman who overcomes adversity. Fantastic and vivid descriptions of events. She's a marvelous story teller.
Jul 17, 2011 Jolie rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nobody
You can pick apart,feel sorry for yourself and find bad in anything if you try too and that's exactly what this author did.She took a lively hood,a traditional way of living and for the majority of people that live it a VERY happy way of living and tore it apart.

She complain's and speak's in horror of this way of life but fails to acknowledge one important fact:she made these choice's.If she didn't like it she could have made other choices and left the people she insulted in this book alone.

A memoir of a life on a midwest ranch. The hard work and loneliness, involved in this lifestyle makes me wonder why any women ever stay on the ranches.

No Rules Book Club Notes:Karen had met the author when she toured Montana last year and has communicated with her a few times since.

Breaking Clean is the story of expectations for a typical farm woman's life in the hardscrabble prairie of Montana. Her work is difficult and necessary to the success of the ranch.Because of her sex her work earned he
A wonderful memoir by Montanan Judy Blunt, who writes about growing up on a cattle ranch as a third generation rancher on the Montana high plains. Fortunately, in addition to learning all things ranching - a foreign world to me - she learned how to write enormously well. This is a woman who can break in a horse, rope a calf, kill a snake, can thousands of jars of garden produce, butcher just about any animal, raise kids, help a cow calve, and then write about it all in fascinating, perfect pitch ...more
I wavered between wanting to keep turning the pages to wondering why she hasn't written anything else, that she turned her life upside down with little result. This is a more contemporary Little House on the Prairie with several big stories like the blizzard of '64, Judy birthing a calf by herself, and her odious father-in-law in various guises as a a tyrant whose rule prevailed. This says it all about living on a ranch where it wasn't always possible to get to civilization, "With the first bliz ...more
Erika Leaf
Memoir about growing up in the typical hardscrabble life of a self-sufficient ranch family in eastern Montana in the 60's, and the author's eventual emergence into a life off the ranch as a single mom and college student in Missoula. It is a cross cultural story in that the culture of the ranch community is quite distinct from the urban culture of the time. Written vividly through both details and through telltale omissions, but not riveting and action filled as some readers will be looking for. ...more
The story of growing up along (and south) of the 'highline' in Montana through the eyes of one courageous woman. Hardscrabble ranch life and deplorable weather conditions molded this author to be one heck of a writer. I felt I was there: stung by the sadness, pride and joy of accomplishment, laughter when needed.
Some beautiful writing, especially the first half, then it gets bogged down in a whine fest, she has three children under five years old, as many of us have, she had a big garden and canned alot, as many of us have, she fought with her parents as a teenager (yawn), her father would leave the land to her brother, not fair at all but what's ever fair regarding women. Not quite sure of the point of the blow by blow of her childs high fever and how they got to the hospital on muddy roads. Every stay ...more
Interesting book about life on a ranch in Montana in the 1960s. This is a true story of the author who describes her life growing up and as she marries a neighboring rancher in her teens. She describes her life as a subservient ranch wife as were her mother and grandmother. By distance she was isolated from people, a cook for a large number of ranch workers as well as her family, and never considered a co-owner of the property her husband owned. Not surprisingly, there were hard adjustments to t ...more
Dec 16, 2008 Bill rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir
One of the finest memoirs I've read in recent years. Blunt lived an isolated and bleak existence on a remote Montana ranch. Rarely happy - and fixed in a role she never really wanted, she abruptly picked up and left. With two young children in tow, she pursued an education and eventually became a professor of English at a Montana University. Her move caused her family much distress - her existence on the ranch was bleak but I don't believe she suffered physical abuse from spouse or family member ...more
What a great book. The writing is so honed, clean, and clear like the eastern Montana prairie where most of the memoir set. The lion share of the book is about Blunt's upbringing on a ranch 50 miles south of Malta, MT, near the Missouri River Breaks. But she touches also on her life as a ranch wife, which lasted until she was 32, when she divorce and moved to Missoula with her three kids to pursue a different life. Her love of the country in which she spent her first 32 years permeates every pag ...more
The first half is good, but the second half blew me away. I was so drawn into the story in places that when I looked up, it took me a few seconds to realize I was still in my own living room.
C and C Lee
The tough choices and gritty life of Northern Montana in the 50-80's. Blunt is true to her name, but with hard work and determination, writes in a riveting fashion. She lives by the words of her parents: Get Tough in her writing. She is fair, honest, deeply self-critical and self-aware, and loyal and realistic. I am enjoying her world and waiting to see where it goes. There is the looming divorce, the husband 12 years older than she, the life in high school boarding in a rooming house, and more. ...more
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Judy Blunt was raised on a cattle ranch in a remote area of Phillips County, Montana, USA near Regina, Montana, south of Malta, Montana. In 1986 she moved with her three small children to Missoula, Montana to attend the University of Montana.

She later turned the tales of her ranch life into an award-winning memoir, titled Breaking Clean (Knopf 2002), which won Whiting Writers' Award, the PEN/Jerar
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“I came to recognize the landscape of my life in the lives of many women. Their stories and the places they spoke of spanned a world beyond my experience, from mill towns to suburbs, from logging camps to ethnic neighborhoods, from inner cities to Indian reservations. Few shared my place of origin or the events of my life, but many, it seems, shared my experience. Listening to their stories, I came to understand how women can be isolated by circumstances as well as by distance, and how our experiences, though geographically distinct, often translated into the same feelings. Away from the physical presence of my past, I found it easy to argue that what mattered most was the story, the truth of what we tell ourselves, the versions we pass along to our daughters. But as I stood in the living room of my rock house that afternoon, I was again reminded of the enormous power of this prairie, its silence and the whisper I made inside it. I had forgotten how easily one person can be lost here.” 2 likes
“Word from the outside, whether it arrived in a mail sack or a news report, seldom overshadowed the facts of our lives. We talked in facts -- work and weather, the logistics of this fence, that field -- but stories were how we spoke. A good story rose to the surface of a conversation like heavy cream, a thing to be savored and served artfully. Stored in dry wit, wrapped in dark humor, tied together with strings of anecdote, these stories told the chronology of a family, the history of a piece of land, the hardships of a certain year or a span of years, a series of events that led without pause to the present. If the stories were recent, they filtered through the door to my room late at night, voices hushed around the kitchen table as they sorted out this day and held it against others, their laughter sharp and sad and slow to come. Time was the key. Remember the time...and something in the air caught like a whisper. Back when. Back before a summer too fresh and real to talk about, a year's work stripped in a twenty-minute hailstorm; a man's right hand mangled in the belts of a combine, first day of harvest; an only son buried alive in a grain bin, suffocated in a red avalanche of wheat.” 1 likes
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