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


3.85  ·  Rating details ·  948 Ratings  ·  105 Reviews
The moving sequel to the bestselling Big Rock Candy Mountain.Bruce Mason returns to Salt Lake City not for his aunt's funeral, but to encounter after forty-five years the place he fled in bitterness. A successful statesman and diplomat, Mason had buried his awkward and lonely childhood, sealed himself off from the thrills and torments of adolescence to become a figure who ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published November 1st 1997 by Penguin Books (first published 1979)
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 Recapitulation, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
JimZ I agree with Dan. A clear sequel to "Candy Mountain." Together they form a whole, thus Recapitulation is worth reading for that reason alone. The book…moreI agree with Dan. A clear sequel to "Candy Mountain." Together they form a whole, thus Recapitulation is worth reading for that reason alone. The book does provide new information to fill out many (important) details of the protagonists's life. What I have appreciated about Stegner's fiction is the way in which his deep and sympathetic portrayal of women, set him apart from many male authors that I have read. His loving relationship with his own Mother shines painfully through this and other works of his, even when the female character was not meant as a fictional portrayal of his Mom per se. I only got onto Wallace Stegner via reading Angle of Repose, found on many "best fiction" lists, and found his craft so riveting that I haven't stopped yet (this is my 8th book by him and have at least 2 more on my list).(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Marita by: Laysee
Bruce Mason spent his life carrying an awful load of emotional baggage.

Forty five years after the events in The Big Rock Candy Mountain Bruce Mason returns to Salt Lake City for an aunt’s funeral. His presence in Salt Lake City unleashes a torrent of memories. The city has changed a great deal, but wherever he goes he finds himself confronted by his past.

That is as much as I’ll say of the plot in order not to spoil it for those who wish to read these two novels about the Mason family. The writin
Greg Brozeit
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-fiction
Stay away from this book if you are young. I can’t see a reader under 30 years of age relating to this story. But if you are in your mid-forties or older, you might like it. Recapitulation will certainly make you uncomfortable to learn that there are universal truths about the way we remember and interpret our own pasts. Or maybe you will find that comforting in an uncomfortable way.

Recapitulation is a sequel—if a book written more than 35 years later can be considered a sequel—to Stegner’s The
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is like a coda written forty years after the symphony. If you haven't read The Big Rock Candy Mountain, I suggest you do so. Then, while it is still fresh in your mind, read Recapitulation. It fills in details left out of the first book and lets you get to know "Brucie" a lot better as he struggles through puberty and beyond in Salt Lake City. If you've grown attached to the Mason family through The Big Rock Candy Mountain, you'll find yourself wanting even more, as I did.

Bruce Mason retur
Jun 23, 2016 rated it liked it
As an ardent admirer of Wallace Stegner, I was thrilled to learn that he has written a sequel to "The Big Rock Candy Mountain". Whereas there is no candy in his earlier book, there is a surfeit of recall in "Recapitulation".

Bruce Mason returns to Salt Lake, the city of his youth, to bury his paternal aunt, a relative he barely knows and for whom he feels no affection. He is initially "flooded with delighted recollection" but soon finds himself mired in memories of the last 45 years. The young b
Dec 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I feel like this book was written for me. But that's only partially due to the fact that it's the story of a man returning to his boyhood home of Salt Lake City after a long absence, and I began reading it on my first visit to Salt Lake in nearly four years. There were so many references to the city and its surrounds and its culture that I can't imagine anyone who hadn't grown up along the Wassatch Front to even comprehend it. When Stegner describes an advancing thunderstorm as seen from the Sal ...more
Mar 02, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a good book, but not great like "The Big Rock Candy Mountain." It's only half the length, but felt twice as long. I wasn't compelled to read on like I was with the earlier book. I would definitely read "Big Rock..." first to get to know the characters. "Recapitulation" fills in gaps from the earlier book, told in flashbacks. The character has returned to Salt Lake City 45 years after leaving, looks up old haunts and the memories come flooding back. I was disappointed in the one item from ...more
I savor Stegner's work and this book particularly so beautifully and aptly describes Salt Lake City which is where I was born and continue to live. Though I read it long ago, I still remember rereading sentences for their beauty and nostalgia. This is a small little book I will reread.
Jun 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This was the second book in Stegner's semi-autobiographical novels and follows The Big Rock Candy Mountain. It was written 45 years after the first and picks up where the first one leaves off, except in flashbacks from an older Bruce Mason (Stegner) as he returns to Salt Lake City for his aunt's funeral. Although his writing is as gorgeous as usual, the story bogs down, particularly in the first half. Mason is in college and then in law school as the story progresses through a failed romance, hi ...more
Jul 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like if I had read this right after Big Rock Candy Mountain I might have given it five stars. With a clearer memory of that book, I think I might have felt like this was more of a continuation/completion than a....well....a recapitulation.

But maybe that was the point. It is interesting to think about someone telling the same story at different points in their life and how the tellings would be different.
Joe Dobrow
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Favorite quotes from Recapitulation:

"But Bruce Mason walked double. Inside him, moving with the same muscles and feeling with the same nerves and sweating through the same pores, went a thin brown youth, volatile, impulsive, never at rest, not so much a person as a possibility, or a bundle of possibilities: subject to enthusiasm and elation and exuberance and occasional great black moods, stubborn, capable of scheming but often astonished by consequences, a boy vulnerable to wonder, awe, worship
Mar 18, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm not sure what to think about this book. On one hand it's as well written as anything that Stegner has written, but on the other hand reading this book feels like reading a confession. It's an intensely private book, an exposed raw nerve, and in reading it I more than once got the impression that writing this must have been a painful experience, like digging into flesh to extract a buried thorn that though it has healed over, still causes pain. In this way, it wasn't a pleasant read; too voye ...more
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
I should have liked this book more. I anticipated the sequel to “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” as I so badly wanted to know what happened to Bruce. I could certainly relate to the setting in Salt Lake City- as I could picture most of the landmarks, streets and buildings he described. I was also interested in his frequent references to the “Mormon” church and culture. I also could certainly relate to the theme of returning to where one experienced losing their first love, as I had a similar experi ...more
Feb 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
The perfect case for a 3.5-star rating. Stegner loses focus a bit in the first half of "Recapitulation" but saves things nicely in the second half, so I bumped this up. His prose is typically fine, and late in his life Stegner wrote old characters better than just about anybody. His protagonist here, the boy from "The Big Rock Candy Mountain" now a diplomat on the down side of his life on this earth, is less crotchety than usual for Stegner but still is a fine study. Here, in contrast to several ...more
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Anyone choosing to read "Recapitulation" is advised to read Stegner's The Big Rock Candy Mountain first before tackling this sequel with occurs some 45 years later. Bruce Mason, the sole survivor or a dysfunctional family, returns to Salt Lake City (the city of his youth), to bury an Aunt. Before the funeral, he revisits his youthful haunts and reminisces about prior relationships: his parents and brother, school friends, his only love (Nola); he reflects on things that were and things that coul ...more
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Thomas Wolfe wrote a novel to tell us that we can't go home again. In Recapitulation Wallace Stegner tells us why, when we do go home again, we're probably better off remembering the people and places and times but letting the past remain past. Bruce Mason returns to Salt Lake City 45 years after he left it as a 20 year old. Now he returns to preside over his aunt's burial. The occasion stirs to mind the past--filled with a mixture of longing and disgust. While home again Bruce intends to look u ...more
Aug 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Tamra, Kip
This book is a sequel to The Big Rock Candy Mountain. It was good to get some more closure on those characters. These two books are based on Wallace Stegner's real life, although they are fiction and the names are changed. His father was hard to read about in both books, because he was harsh, unloving, and abusive. His mother was a long-suffering, kind woman. Their life was dysfunctional, and it sometimes broke my heart to read about it.

I loved the part where his mom signed him up for a tennis
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
This novel was written some 35 years after Stegner wrote Big Rock Candy Mountain, and it is a return to the same characters and some of the themes of the first book. These were both based on Stegner's own family and tell the stories of his parents and brother--and himself, as Bruce. Now Bruce returns to Salt Lake in 1977 and notices all the changes since he left in 1932--also does a lot of remembering, and coming to terms with himself, his friends and especially his parents.

I don't know if he in
Jul 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was first introduced to this wonderful author with his classic, Big Rock Candy Mountain. The same characters of a boy and his parents continue in this work, as the now grown Bruce Mason, returns home to Salt Lake City following the death of an aunt - the last of his living family.

Stegner is a master of prose. His lyrical writing style gently carries you into the world of Mason's past, hovering around the year 1929. Amazingly, despite the era, Stegner's foray into his character's thoughts and e
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After reading BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN, I read RECAPITULATION, which is the return of Bruce Mason to Salt Lake City after many years. There is so much history of Mason in BIG ROCK, that I can't say how this book would stand on its own. Having had the fortune of reading BIG ROCK first, RECAPITULATION is so compelling. It is as if the wind turned the pages for me.

Stegner reminds us that our lives, nor those of others can be judged in a meeting; rather it takes the understanding of generations to be
Apr 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
I love Stegner and don't know why it has taken me so long to read something else of his (most likely because I feared disappointment after adoring Angle of Repose). His writing is beautiful and vivid and he had a gift for conveying nostalgia, longing and regret. I liked this book and enjoyed that it was set in Salt Lake City.

"The vision breaks and tears, dissolving. Below him the trees rattle and are still. Mason feels around in his mind like a blind man reassuring himself about the objects in a
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
The prom intermission, Bruce and Nola back at the house on 700 South was my favorite recollection from Mason. Here every character reveals vulnerability. Spontaneous, it is the greatest moment that Bruce and Nola will know. Bruce introduces Nola and jokes with his ailing mother. His intruding father brings the moment back aground, and the joy is gone.

As a youngster growing up in 1977 Salt Lake City, I enjoyed Stegner's references: Deseret Gym, Hotel Utah(Sky Room), South Temple, The Internationa
This book managed to be a coming of age tale of a teenage boy AND a reconciling of a man's past. After 40+ years a well known, successful diplomat returns to home Utah to bury his aunt. I loved the language and imagery, especially at the beginning when he is walking the street, contrasting the old memories with the changed surroundings.

Unfortunately, this books theme is mostly about the boy's sexual and emotional growth. There is one scene that was down right vulgar (like listening to crass boy
Feb 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel, re-read
I re-read this book this week, just hungry for that Stegner touch with words and phrases. So beautifully written about a young man coming of age. The catch is that he is now an older man who knows what life will deal him, and he goes back to his hometown to settle some family business. He reviews his teen to manhood years in lifelike detail, sexual details extant. It is the vivacity of the memories that takes the reader to the front line of a troubled young man who is so because of a troubled fa ...more
Jun 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
I'd liked Stegner's "Spectator's Bird" so much that I was fully expecting to feel the same about "Recapitulation", but I didn't. It's quite possible that the author decided to write another flashback-type of novel, as he'd just won the National Book Award with that style, but in this book one gets entangled from time to time in it's not being clear whether the present or the past is involved. It took a bit of adjustment everytime I'd pick the book up again, and I found that troublesome. He write ...more
James Wilde
Apr 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Stegner is always great, and even though his books are of the 20th Century, they stand up quite well as complex and important stories. "Recapitulation" is set in Salt Lake City in the late 1970s, but is built by recollections and heart-rendering and heart-felt examinations of one man's past, growing up in SLC during Prohibition and the Depression. Coming of age in a complex and changing world. Somewhat of a sequel to "Big Rock Candy Mountain."
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
The more I read books by Wallace Stegner, the more I truly love his work. I think one of the reasons I love his writing is that he instills a part of himself in his books, it is a revealing of sorts and you can't help but place yourself alongside the journey. I don't want an author to merely tell a story but to impart himself to his audience.
Nov 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wallace Stegner was my father's professor at the University of Utah. I also lived in Salt Lake City. This is a very special book to me. It was well done, I remember the history of Salt Lake, my grandparents and forebears lived here. I enjoyed this immensely. I I know where he was talking about. My Great grandfather was the head doorman at the Hotel Utah. This is my story. Don't mess with me.
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
An incredibly sad and beautiful book dealing with the complexity of memory and how certain life events leave a deep mark in you.
Harold Titus
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Only an elite novelist could succeed in what Wallace Stegner accomplishes with “Recapitulation.” A sequel to “The Big Rock Candy Mountain,” this novel is more contemplative than it is event-based and episodic. The reader spends perhaps as much time dwelling in the mind of the protagonist Bruce Mason as he does witnessing the experiences of the teenage boy that Mason remembers himself being during his formative years. “Recapitulation” is about recollection of the past and coming to terms with rep ...more
John Marshall
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Initially I wasn't particularly crazy about this book. Either it meandered or I did. Something happened though midway through and it worked for me. This notion that you can't go home again is spot on. I have tried. Embrace youth, but don't return to seek it again. It won't be there. What we long for will have changed--as we have. The last half of the book drives home really important truths.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Anton Chekhov
  • Valerie Solanas: The Defiant Life of the Woman Who Wrote SCUM (and Shot Andy Warhol)
  • The Complete Novels: Voyage in the Dark / Quartet / After Leaving Mr Mackenzie / Good Morning, Midnight / Wide Sargasso Sea
  • Wallace Stegner and the American West
  • The Portable Henry James
  • Rogue River Journal: A Winter Alone
  • Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas
  • Adam Resurrected
  • The Color of Night
  • Windward Heights
  • The Pine Island Paradox
  • The Phantom Carriage
  • The Broken Tower: The Life of Hart Crane
  • The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams
  • The Testament
  • One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner
  • The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith
  • Dr. Neruda's Cure for Evil
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.
“When you marry into a Mormon family you marry tribes and nations.” 5 likes
“Accident, they say, favors the prepared mind. Opportunity knocks only for those who are ready at the door. If we believe the novels we read, upward mobility is always ambitious, hungry, and aggressive, or at the very least, discontented. The George Willards are forever yearning away from the spiritual starvation of Winesburg toward some vague larger life. But that is not always the way it is. Some of us didn’t know enough to be discontented and ambitious. Some of us had such limited experience and limited aspirations that only accident, or the actions of others, or perhaps some inescapable psychosocial fate, could explode us out of our ruts. In a way, I suppose I had to hitchhike out of my childhood; but if I did, I did it without raising my thumb.” 0 likes
More quotes…