Roxann's Reviews > All the Little Live Things

All the Little Live Things by Wallace Stegner
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's review
Feb 01, 10

Read in January, 2010

Wallace Stegner is a brilliant author; his work is a joy to read for the language, the allusion, the philosophy, and wonderful characterization. I don't know why I didn't give this book 5 stars, aside from the fact that I only finished it late last night and the ending was emotionally devastating and has left me feeling unsettled; pondering and questioning why, and wondering what conclusions Stegner meant for the reader to reach. I guess I shouldn't save 5 stars only for books that leave me feeling satisfied and reaffirmed; this one is perfectly executed.
It is the story of a retired literary agent and his wife, still reeling from the death of their only child, who move to the foothills of California to escape. Joe Allston is curmudgeonly, cynical and regretful. The other major characters are his neighbors: a young hippie who squats on Allston's land, reminds him of his dead son, spouts all manner of permissive philosophy, and expects to be taken seriously; and a woman who is purely innocent and very wise, and full of the joy of life (literally. she is pregnant.), and enamored of every "little live thing". These two characters represent the best and worst of the 60's (the book was published in 1967). The three characters, and their competing philosophies, collide at the unsettling end of the novel.
Stegner spent part of his younger life in Salt Lake City and earned a BA from the University of Utah. One of Utah's "most prominent citizens", according to Governor Huntsman. If you live in Utah, you owe it to yourself to read something by Stegner, just to be culturally savvy. It will be worth your effort. Try this one or 'Crossing to Safety' or 'Angle of Repose'.

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