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The Big Rock Candy Mountain

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  4,323 ratings  ·  481 reviews
Bo Mason, his wife, and two boys live a transient life of poverty and despair. Drifting from town to town and from state to state, the violent, ruthless Bo seeks his fortune, eventually becoming a rum-runner in the American Northwest
Audio CD, 2 pages
Published January 1st 2010 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1943)
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Dave Norris Amen! I HATED history when I had to memorize the names and dates of legislation, and especially the presidential candidates and dates! But when I…moreAmen! I HATED history when I had to memorize the names and dates of legislation, and especially the presidential candidates and dates! But when I finally had a SOCIAL historian step in and teach the remainder of the term after the assigned prof had disappeared, I began to LOVE history. This is the quote that changed it for me: "From the beginning, the history of America has been 'Go West, to the frontier.' And then one day, the frontier disappeared." The book Big Rock Candy Mountain explores that theme very well, and also gives us a wonderful strong woman protagonist.(less)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Reading Wallace Stegner is like having a really great first boyfriend. He ruins you for anyone who comes later. Sometimes he's so good that you don't even want anyone after him.

The Big Rock Candy Mountain is the book that should have won Stegner the Pulitzer Prize long before he wrote Angle of Repose. I've read commentary indicating that Big Rock Candy Mountain is largely autobiographical. If that is true, my heart aches for the little boy that was Wallace Stegner. Perhaps those early painful ex
What Stegner might call a big three-master, this family saga quasi-autobiographically traces the Mason family from their ignominious Midwestern roots through a series of get-rich-quick blunders that takes them from Oregon to Saskatchewan to Montana to Salt Lake to Reno.

Narrated objectively, the book's emotional compass is the family's youngest son, Stegner's version of himself, and the catharsis of this book is what makes its best moments remarkably fine and what overloads the circuitry in the
I feel spent, having finished this book. I took more time reading it than any book in recent memory - and it wasn't only its 563 pages that made it a long read. I had to read with a pen at the ready, so many ideas and images and thoughts I wanted to highlight.

The Big Rock Candy Mountain is a western book. A character study. A journey. But not a there-and-back-again book like Bilbo Baggins wrote. It's a go and go again kind of journey, searching ever further afield for that one thing that will ma
My first Wallace Stegner novel! I am very pleased to have that bridge crossed (all puns intended). It's a story of family,searching for home, escape and return, survival against adversity, the American dream gone wrong, and ultimately, forgiveness.

Told by multiple narrators, the four members of the Mason family, the story covers some thirty plus years in the life of Elsa, the man she comes to love and marry, Bo, and their two sons, Chet and Bruce. During those years, there is love, humor, anguis
This is Stegner's attempt to understand his parents and their making of his identity. He beautifully conceals who the real hero of the tale is until the last pages: the somewhat effeminate, philosophical son, who sees both his mother and his father for what they were, but doesn't ultimately begrudge them their sins. After all, they live on in his own history. He could only condemn them as much as he could condemn himself.

The brilliant and intimate storytelling of Stegner's later novels (the not
Oct 10, 2007 Rachel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Stegner lovers, westerners, adventurers
Shelves: fiction
I'm on a Stegner kick. The Big Rock Candy Mountain drags your heart along for the ride as you read about two generations of the Mason family and their (mis)adventures scratching out a life in succeeding versions of America's western frontier. The patriarch Bo Mason berates his wife Elsa and frightens his sons Chet and Bruce across more states than you can count. But even in the end, his insatiable taste for booms and busts remains endearing, or at least somehow forgivable.

A little long towards
This was a slow burn. At times difficult to read and at times heart wrenching . If you need a faster pace this might not be for you. If you want to feel like you actually know these characters by the end, then it is. I did read this with trepidation throughout, due to the volatile nature of the main character Bo Mason. Stegner for me has the ability to think of a story in his head and when he puts pen to paper it reads like you are there in the story. Very real. No gimmicks. This book is called ...more
Wow....what can I say that can do justice to this book? It's quite a journey with Stegner's family, from before he was born until early adulthood. His father has grandiose ideas and a restless spirit and drags the family all over several states as well as Saskatchewan, Canada looking for the next "get rich quick" scheme. Although the book jacket synopsis calls Bo Mason (the character name for Stegner's dad) "ruthless and violent" he is more than that, a multi-layered character. It's fascinating ...more
Why couldn't Stegner be decent and write a book with an antagonist toward whom I could detachedly direct my righteous indignation? Instead, he wrote the Big Rock Candy Mountain with Bo, who is not one of Cormac McCarthy's depraved evil doers. Jarringly, and despite what you might believe otherwise, Bo is me, only in different circumstances. When Bo lashes out at his children or disappoints his wife or goes after another pipe dream that will have him raking in the dollars, it is me. How could he ...more
What happens when a beautiful, gentle woman, unused to physical hardship, marries a stubborn, nomadic adventurer with an itch, a daredevil determined to realize the American dream and “make his pile” any way he can?

We sure find out.

This is Stegner’s second novel, epic in length and scope compared with his first book, a novella called Remembering Laughter, and in it he teaches himself what works and what doesn’t. What a gift for a reader to be able to watch that learning unfold.

The dialogue amo
This is such a raw, truth telling, gut wrenching read. If this is, as I have read it was, crafted to be loosely and liberally based around the story of the author and his father, then what a childhood he must have had and how remarkable that he grew to overcome those childhood experiences with such insight into the human psyche as he displays in his books.

This is the third Stegner novel that I have read and all are deep, thought-provoking books that fully develop the characters and show them fr
Good book. Lots of very flawed characters.
Who’s to “blame” when a family goes wrong? "Blame" is in quotes because I wonder whether there is true blame. Can we be blamed for being ourselves, wanting our dreams/hopes/desires, carrying the hurts of our yesterdays? Can we be blamed for living by the confinements imposed on us by our past?
I suppose, in a way, we can. We could break the pattern, change our destiny, etc. In theory, it's all possible. But it takes a very aware (of one's own issues) and
Jennifer Hughes
This is a difficult book to review because it is the full saga of a man and his wife and then their children. It starts out like a cute Western or a Bonanza episode, and then it switches pretty quickly to a classic Stegner study of relationships: love, loyalty, jealousy, despair, heartache.

The protagonist is a man born after his time, a pioneer and explorer born after the taming of the West, who restlessly searches for the easy life on "the big rock candy mountain" that he's sure is out there s
Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose is absolutely one of my favorite books. The beauty of Stegner’s prose combined with a plot that follows the challenges of settling in the West that my own ancestors faced makes it resonate with me deeply: From wishful goldmines in Nevada to bootlegging and moving and moving and moving and switching jobs over and over.

I hoped I’d have the same reaction to The Big Rock Candy Mountain. It’s got much of the same beautiful prose and understanding of living in and mak
A big fat sprawling novel with a fascinating story line. Exactly the kind of book I used to love to wallow in. Now, however, such books make me restless. I want more and at the same time I want less. The writing, of course, is good, if not lyrical. The plot was always believeable. I’d like to have been Stegnor’s editor, taking a blue pencils to those passages of endless description, and those sections where he felt compelled to explain every motive and every thought in his characters’ heads.
Aug 25, 2007 Fritz rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who think they don't like historical fiction, americans
My gnat-length attention span made this a bit of a long march, but it was worth every second. This is one of the best books I've ever read on the ever-elusive national dream our baby boomer parents tell us about. You can also use it to weigh down a pie crust (don't tell the library).
I love Wallace Stegner! This is the second book I read by him, after the Angle of Repose. I really enjoy his writing style and Pioneer America settings. His focus on female characters and love stories in addition to the very accurate historical details make his works must reads.
This book lingers in my mind, a family saga of the boom-and-bust Northwest, drifting, struggling, rumrunning, hapless and hopeful, evidently a largely autobiographical book of this essential writer of the American West, he published in 1943. The Big Rock Candy Mountain is a mountain in Utah near where Stegner grew up, which took its name from the striped rock formations and, probably, from a hoboing song of the 1920s… There's an edition to which his student Robert Stone wrote the foreword--I'd r ...more
Todd Martin
The Big Rock Candy Mountain is a story of a troubled family making its way through the early part of the 20th century as told from the alternating points of view of its members and in the 3rd person. The plot (as far as it goes) is driven by the father, an ambitious dreamer with anger management issues who seeks to “make his pile” through one get-rich scheme or another.

Here’s the basic format of the book’s plot: Dad comes up with a far-fetched get-rich scheme. The scheme falls through. Dad gets
aPriL does feral sometimes

We Americans are taught that America is a country that is basically made up of philosophical and material substances shiny and valuable as pure gold, attainable through sacrifice, sweat equity and desperate risks if we are not lucky enough to born rich. However, for many of us, the Statue of Liberty is actually a whore who we've gussied up and on whom we've projected hollow grand themes and wishful dreams. Even if we believe this is truth, we feel hopeful by any means possible - religion, custom
you can sum up this book with one word...struggle.

in a grapes of wrath kind of way, this book is all about making it, and after being introduced to bo and his radiant energy and ambition, it feels promising. about fifty pages in, you realize that the book is only about struggle and that bo is truly searching for the big rock candy mountain, which always lies beyond the family's fingertips.

although the novel is framed back in the day, it's a telltale story of keeping up with the joneses in the s
I don't know why it has taken me so long to read my way through Wallace Stegner's fiction, and it feels odd to be giving a novel published in 1943 such high marks as a compelling narrative that captures some of the rougher times in American history so powerfully.

I'm sure all my praise for The Big Rock Candy Mountain has been offered before, but I'll offer it again. While the book starts slowly--Part I is the weakest part--it gathers strength as it unfurls the struggles of Harry "Bo" Mason, Elsa
Wow. These 600 pages were depressing even for me, but I was floored by their power. The prose was simple, rarely calling attention to itself, but always worth further consideration. The sentences unwound, like the narrative, slowly, leading to observations that redeemed the long road it took to get there.

I think this is why I like Stegner so much-- he writes simply and beautifully about timeless struggles for self-realization. And despite all his gender stereotypes, I love love love the way he
Harold Titus
This book moved me to tears. Perhaps that is because I am in my seventies and have lived and witnessed much of what Wallace Stegner writes about. Perhaps it is because I have come to understand how complex human beings are and how easily they can bring injury and hardship upon the people they love.

The novel begins in the year 1905 in Minnesota and ends in Utah in the 1930s. Its central character is Harry “Bo” Mason, a physically powerful, aggressive person who left his parents’ home at the age o
I cannot say I enjoyed reading this book. It is depressing, The family is doomed, there isn't much humor and the author's writing has a melancholic tone. Furthermore, each episode went on and on and on; the author used too many words to get his message across.

Nevertheless, I left the novel with a vivid awaresness of each character's being. I really came to know them. I felt like I had known these people, grown alongside them. As the novel neared its end, I was jolted when I recalled how these ch
Mary Etta
I always wonder what the difference might be in a book in print vs. an audio book. In any case I always like a Stegner book. He writes so much better than many others I currently read.

I happen to be also reading in print "Look Homeward Angel", Thomas Wolfe. Apparently, both writing biographically. Both had abusive childhoods. Wolfe takes a very long time to tell his story, much description and detail. Both great writers. I prefer Stegner's telling though both are hard to read in the hurt that i
This was a very melancholy book, one of chasing pipe dreams that are just never quite achieved. The story takes place starting around 1913 when Elsa moves to North Dakota to escape a unhappy family life to meet Bo Mason. They marry and the story that ensues is the tale of their life as Bo leads Elsa and their family through a series of pursuits of the "Big Rock Candy Mountain."

The book itself is excellent, a great example of a classical page-turner (in contrast to the contemporary Dan Brown-typ
Tim Hogg
I have always desired a first edition copy of this book. First, and most importantly, I think it is the finest bit of literature ever written. Scoff if you must, but this book really hit me hard as a young aspiring writer. This is Stegner at his finest and its his first piece.
Why is it so good? Its Grapes of Wrath type literature with characters that you don't want to like, but you find yourself simply engrossed in their actions. It's the book that ranks highly up there as an era that we call t
The writing is superb. The story is heavy. I felt like I could feel the emotions most of the time (except perhaps toward the end), and I loved the detailed references surrounding several settings where portions of the story took place (Salt Lake City & Lake Tahoe, for example). This wasn't just a story with a setting, plot, and characters, but something that I felt as I read--almost in an experiential way, even though I wasn't part of it. But it was often a dismal sort of experience, despite ...more
This book wasn't at all what I expected. I guess I thought it would be about early settlers farming in the Northwest, only it's more about the struggle of a family to understand the imperfections of each other. In today's time, Elsa would be considred an enabler. I actually had very little sympathy for her and feel she was as much to blame for Bruce's bitterness as Bo was. An example would be her telling Bruce at the end of Bo's lady friend and then self-righteously saying she didn't mind, that ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Audiobook separated into 2 parts with 2 ISBNs - merge or not? 5 36 Jun 12, 2012 08:43PM  
Current reading 4 30 Feb 04, 2012 09:41PM  
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Wallace Earle Stegner (February 18, 1909—April 13, 1993) was an American historian, novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist. Some call him "The Dean of Western Writers."
More about Wallace Stegner...
Angle of Repose Crossing to Safety The Spectator Bird Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West All the Little Live Things

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“There was somewhere, if you knew where to find it, some place where money could be made like drawing water from a well, some Big Rock Candy Mountain where life was effortless and rich and unrestricted and full of adventure and action, where something could be had for nothing.” 6 likes
“People, he had said, were always being looked at as points, and they ought to be looked at as lines. There weren't any points, it was false to assume that a person ever was anything. He was always becoming something, always changing, always continuous and moving, like the wiggly line on a machine used to measure earthquake shocks. He was always what he was in the beginning, but never quite exactly what he was; he moved along a line dictated by his heritage and his environment, but he was subject to every sort of variation within the narrow limits of his capabilities.
She shut her mind on that too. There was danger in looking at people as lines. The past spread backward and you saw things in perspective that you hadn't seen then, and that made the future ominous, more ominous than if you just looked at the point, at the moment. There might be truth in what Bruce said, but there was not much comfort.”
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