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The Meadow

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  1,517 ratings  ·  233 reviews
An American Library Association Notable Book

In discrete disclosures joined with the intricacy of a spider's web, James Galvin depicts the hundred-year history of a meadow in the arid mountains of the Colorado/Wyoming border. Galvin describes the seasons, the weather, the wildlife, and the few people who do not possess but are themselves possessed by this terrain. In so doi
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 15th 1993 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1992)
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Marveau Bonjour,

Je l'ai lu en français. Le titre est : Prairie

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Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"If Lyle said he heard stars he heard stars."
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
"Often I am permitted to return to a meadow..."

This is a quiet, thoughtful read for those of us who have a strong heart connection with the high sagebrush country of the inter-mountain West. It follows about a century's-worth of people's doin's in a mountain meadow at 8,500 feet in southern Wyoming. The life requires great hardiness and ingenuity to withstand the isolation and trials of snow, wind, fire, hunger, disease, and financial uncertainty.
The book is beautifully and heartfully written,
Nov 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2010
I am having a hard time writing this review, because this book is so spare, so intricate, so spellbinding that I struggle to find the words to give even a minimal conception of the scope and breadth and depth of it. Other have done a better job than I ever could.

From Publishers Weekly:
These ragged sketches of ranch life along the Wyoming-Colorado border depict the author's neighbors--hardscrabble folk--in wry, stoic stories of skill, survival and loss that flash back and forth across 100 years o
Lew Watts
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like a series of prose poems—simply gorgeous!
Nov 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This deeply moving book for all I know is a classic. I read it eighteen years ago when it came out, have only now re-read it, and as with all classics, I rather hope I've learned more from it in re-reading than I did the first time around. The Meadow is about several things, but first it's the story of Lyle Van Waning and the community he helped form on the high ridge of the Continental Divide, the region called Boulder Ridge and Sheep Creek Meadow in the border area between Wyoming and Colorado ...more
Dec 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Micheal by: Anyone who loves the west and beautiful writing
Read this book the first time back in 2000, and though I liked it, didn't really see it for what it is. Reminded of it by a friend, subsequent re-reading brought me back to a place I'd somehow forgotten. The West I once knew. Like a landscape looked on fleetingly once upon a time, the return visit revealed vistas that went unnoticed before. I can smell the warm pine and fresh cut hay. Flaming sunsets over fir silhouetted ridge lines in winter are painted vividly as are winding dirt roads meander ...more
Joshua Rigsby
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A lovely, quiet read. A beautiful evocation of place and time. Galvin offers gorgeous description and heartful, longing characters whose unrequited love for this piece of land lingers from one generation to the next.
David Joy
Oct 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Written about the men I admire most--tough, gritty old timers hesitant of outsiders who are more attached to a land than a people--this is less a novel than a chaptered narrative of prose poetry, some of the richest language I've ever read. There are paragraphs that kept me up at night, and entire chapters that will haunt me for as far as I can see. I don't know that I've ever read anything else as beautiful.
Apr 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Technically this book is a sort of memoir/historical non-fiction, but it reads like fiction. The style of writing blew me away with its simple but strong prose that vibrates with calm intensity. Galvin's writing is almost like Hemingway, short episodes, almost unrelated at times, that jump back and forth through time. Galvin tells the story of this Wyoming meadow through his own eyes and the recounted (and author-embellished) stories of several stolid and vivid Western men. After reading this, I ...more
Nov 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Meadow is an extraordinary book. James Galvin is a poet and this part novel / part biography reads almost like an epic poem with each chapter as a new verse. Weaving back and forth in time and from character to character, the meadow of the title remains at the core of these people’s lives. The land is harsh, beautiful and unforgiving but it demands so much from App, Ray, Clara and Lyle who are a family determined to keep their land and remain fervently independent despite blizzards, tragedy ...more
Jun 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
What a gem! A thoughtful, gentle homage to a place and the people who share it, especially a clever old codger named Lyle. I'm trying to read all sorts of books set in the West and this one has pulled me into a Montana meadow so seductively I don't want to leave.
Brad Lyerla
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I picked up the MEADOW because a GoodRead friend had praised it. And as I began to read, I realized that I read this book some years ago, and liked it a lot.

I am going to re-read it now and I will write a review, though there might be some delay because I am busy at work.
Carol Peters
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Better than before. One of the best books of the 20th century.


"By the end he had nothing, as if loss were a fire in which he was purified again and again, until he wasn’t a ghost anymore."

"To see with your sense of smell would be to see things narratively, to know not only where things are but where they have been, and how long they have been gone, as if everything seen had been a gently diminishing streak behind it like a comet . . ."

"When the Van Wanings moved to Sheep Creek they were
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It is part memoir about living in the high country on the Wyoming –Colorado border. The people have lived there since the 1930’s and 1940’s or before, building their own cabins and their own lives, and now it is the 1970’s and 1980’s but life is still very much the same – maybe just a little easier. The main person in the book is Lyle and there was much about Lyle that reminded me of Roy. Here is one quote about Lyle that could almost be about Roy (p143): “ He liked having the ...more
Jul 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Mmmm, wow. The same wonderful friend who gave me "Autobiography of Red" tipped me off to poet James Galvin's novel-length effort. Although effort is probably the wrong word, as it implies to me that perhaps the effort wasn't successful, where instead, "The Meadow" is partially fictional, fully poetic, and totally wonderful. I read it with Edward Abbey in mind--Galvin chronicles the lives of several generations of farmers on a singular meadow on the Wyoming-Colorado border, and he also earns hims ...more
Elly Sands
Mar 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Reading a book like this is such a treat, a real pleasure. I loved this book, the writing is absolutely exquisite. I felt so drawn to all the characters, especially Lyle. I just couldn't get enough of him. One of the most interesting men in any book I've ever read. Galvin's description of the landscape and the changing weather evoked such beautiful images. I've given this four stars rather than five because I had trouble with the changing of time frames. It stopped the flow for me when I had to ...more
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was one of my men's book group choices. It is nice to have the opportunity to read a book you would never have chosen to read. The book describes a hundred years of survival on a remote ranch at 8,500 feet on the Wyoming - Colorado border. Learn what it would be like to have to be self sufficient and of hardy stock. Very few people today could think of undertaking such an effort. Take a look at this book. If you read it, you will be glad you did.
Aaron Lozano
Nov 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why do we love living in Wyoming? Well, it's likely you wouldn't understand and we couldn't explain it. Galvin knows and he captures it here. I know the people in this book. I've never met them, but I know them. I know the people, the places, the weather, the scenery. A must read. A masterpiece.
Oct 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the memoir of a Place, the play of Nature's moods, and the lives of people who settled in "The Meadow." The remote location is a high valley surrounded by tall pines, red cliffs, and streams on the border of Colorado and Wyoming in view of the jagged faces of the Medicine Bow mountains and Snowy Range.

The stories of the people--hermits and families--grow organically from the landscape and the effects of weather and climate. The Reader gradually learns the back stories of the characters
Chris Gager
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Picked this one up last night after putting down another. I recently picked this up at our local library's book sale. I was attracted to the western setting. The author is primarily a poet and that fact gives pause, but I'm forging ahead and enjoying this. The prose can be a bit fancy, I guess, but that's to be expected and it hasn't put me off too much. The "plot" is pretty much non-existent as the author bounces around in history giving bits of history of the meadow and those who've attempted ...more
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved _The Meadow_ the first time I read it, but that was for a class during a packed semester, so it was naturally a rushed reading. This time the title came up - literally a name pulled out of a jar - in a book club. I enjoyed the second reading even more, having the luxury of enough time to enjoy it in leisurely snatches.

Galvin writes with such admirable attention to detail that I decided to read an excerpt from the book to my creative writing class as an excellent model of indirect charac
Carol Smith
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A poem. A song. An ode. To be read slowly. Savor the language. Savor how the short chapters - some just a sentence long - feel like an aperture that slowly opens, takes in the view whole, then closes. Then repositions itself and repeats.

Consider the relationships between environment and man, man and animal, man and man, animal and environment. Consider tools and how men employ them as an intermediary in their relationship with the environment. Consider the passage of time. Consider how time was
Susan Eubank
"As it turned out they were indeed not far from home. The snow stopped with eerie suddenness. The wind quit working on them. suddenly the whole thing seemed like the jokes kids played on Jack at school, the kind that make you mad. The stars showed like holes drilled in a tin roof beyond which it was always day. The outline of Boulder Ridge proclaimed itself. It looked too big ever to lose.
When they reached the cabin App lit the heater and a piece of the matchhead stuck under his thumbnail and f
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If I had a Pulitzer to give, I'd hand it over to James Galvin as thanks.

I've read this book a number of times. Each short piece/chapter/segment a favorite. I remember them all, like episodes of some television show deep into syndication. Except far better, much deeper in pleasure.

I don't know if it's because I've lived in cities for so long, that reading about life deep in the civilization characterized by nature and weather plucks at my heartstrings with such power I can't help but glow as I re
May 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-fiction
Within these pages you might find the voice of that elderly uncle or the grandfather you would have loved to talk with once you'd become an adult. Maybe to ask, “what was your life like?” or “what really mattered.”

You’ve met fully formed characters like these in Wendell Berry and Wallace Stegner. I first suspected the narrator must be a whittler. Someone who continually nicks a small scrap of wood until only the honesty remains. But this fellow does it to his words. He takes careful considerati
Apr 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
This novel is a quiet, understated stunner; I nearly want to compare it to an Ondaatje novel in its poetic sensibility and beguiling concision. It speaks most powerfully through images and distilled, economic character revelations, and its cumulate effects will work their way deep inside of you. Like some of my other favorite novels (To the Lighthouse, By the Lake, etc.), this novel forces you to slow down to enter its world properly: if you do, though, you'll be greatly rewarded. I'd struggle t ...more
Nov 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
While at first I felt that this book was poetic, but choppy, the connections became more clear as I moved farther into the story and recognized its non-linear structure. Having lived in Laramie, I enjoyed reading about this nearby area of the Wyoming/Colorado boarder. Galvin's beautiful prose tells a story that embodies the Wyoming values of self-reliance and independence. This is a wonderful read that I know I will come back to again.
Oct 29, 2010 rated it liked it
This book was OK. I appreciated the subject & history of the meadow & the facts of the characters. The location on the Colorado-Wyoming border was great also. However, the author hopscotche around with the characters here & there and was quite confusing. I might get a better understanding reading a second time. Was recommended by a friend. :)
Jul 05, 2014 added it
Shelves: essay
Inspiration to read: NYTBR interview with Colum McCann June 22 21014. He says "'The Meadow' defies classification - it's a memoir, a scrapbook, a novel and a poem rolled into one. For my sins I live in New York City, and reading about Gavin's landscape calms me and brings me elsewhere. "
Jim Minick
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of my all-time favorite books--though far from any traditional form of novel or memoir...but such richness of language and place.
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“The Meadow... Only one of them succeeded in making a life here... He weathered. Before a backdrop of natural beauty, he lived a life from which everything was taken but a place. He lived so close to the real world it almost let him in.” 5 likes
“When we think of our lives as what we have done, memory becomes a museum with one long shelf on which we arrange a bric-a-brac of deeds, each to his own liking.” 1 likes
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