Brian's Reviews > Breaking Clean

Breaking Clean by Judy Blunt
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Nov 30, 09

Read in November, 2009

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 tells about her life growing up on a Montana ranch in the 60s and 70s. It is fascinating to read about a life so different from mine. And rural Montana in that time really feels like the 40s and 50s as it was so remote from any other part of the country.

For me, what kept her story from being really good, or even great, was that she did not do much to situate herself in relation to major societal and cultural issues. She talks about some experiences with the women's right, the shift from family ranching to corporate ranching, being a single mother, and more, but after teasingly great anecdotes she would just drift off to another anecdote. And so the book felt like scene after scene of her experiences.

Of course I am aware that is how life works. It does not have cultural and temporal continuity all of the time. But I believe adding that in is what separates mediocre nonfiction like Blunt's memoir from really great nonfiction like Refuge and other works like it.
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