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Winter Wheat

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4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,698 Ratings  ·  325 Reviews
For this Bison Books edition, James Welch, the acclaimed author of Winter in the Blood (1986) and other novels, introduces Mildred Walker's vivid heroine, Ellen Webb, who lives in the dryland wheat country of central Montana during the early 1940s. He writes, "It is a story about growing up, becoming a woman, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, within the space of a year a ...more
Paperback, 306 pages
Published December 1st 1992 by Bison Books (first published January 1st 1944)
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(showing 1-30)
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Renee Porter
Jun 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Written over sixty years ago about ranchers living in remote parts of Montana, this old fashioned coming of age novel has a surprising currency. Its bittersweet portrayal of human relationships has a deep ring of emotional truth, and its understanding of the constantly shifting nature of identity makes it almost postmodern. Meanwhile, it can be read with a kind of page-turning breathlessness that keeps readers hoping that everything - against all odds - will somehow turn out for the best.

Most r
...more
Heleen
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Very Willa Cather-esque novel of a young girl coming of age in Montana. At first I was frustrated with the pace of the novel, but later came to appreciate it. Amazing how great authors can take some ordinary people in ordinary circumstances and turn them into something beautiful. I was in tears through almost all of Part Three. Spoiler alert: I loved how Ellen came around to appreciating her parents, even with their flaws and fallibility. And who doesn't love a great opening sentence? "September ...more
Jeanette
Apr 30, 2014 rated it liked it
It's closer to 3.5 star and if you are in love with wheat country wide plains Montana solitude, it will be a 4 star plus for you.

Beautiful, lyrical- almost to mystic chapter upon chapter of the Wheat Ranchers' lives in the harrows- rut to rut. The daughter of this household is 19 and the year is 1940. The father (Vermont raised) is "old" (daughter's descriptive adjective) at 40 and her Mother is from Russia. The Mother married him when she was 17 while he was a soldier in the former war within h
...more
Priscilla
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love the inner voice of the narrator/protagonist. And the imagery of the hard winter wheat.
Denise
Nov 30, 2009 rated it liked it
An interesting look at the life of a young girl in Montana and dry-land farming in the 1940's. I felt that the book was an ode to the land and lifestyle, and a coming of age story. There is a lot said about the beauty of the different seasons on the farm, and about the main character's (Ellen) struggle to decide if she wants to accept her parents (with all their perceived flaws) and her life there, or leave for love and a different life. In the end, she learns to see her parents as they really a ...more
Sheila
Mar 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
It took a while for this book to "grab" me, but once it did I was hooked. I loved the metaphor throughout the story of winter wheat and its comparisons to love and life. As Ellen's mom said, "That don't mean nothing. We get mad, sure! Like ice an' snow an' thunder an' lightning storm, but they don't hurt the wheat down in the ground any." (The strong, good wheat can still grow through the toughest of times.)
Lissa
Apr 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing

“September is like a quiet day after a whole week of wind,”
The opening line of Mildred Walker’s most popular novel, Winter Wheat, sets the tone for the metaphors of the farming and natural worlds that bring this book to life.

After selling the dry land wheat crop in the early 1940’s at a decent price, Ellen Webb’s parents can afford to send her away for her first year of college. She goes back east to school– Minnesota is east of Montana anyway, and falls in love with Gil, a wealthy and cultured
...more
Nancy
Oct 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker is a book told through the eyes of Ellen, a young woman who grew up on a wheat ranch in Montana. In 1940 the family ranch provided a bumper crop that allowed her to start college in Minnesota, by far the furthest she had ever been from her parents and the ranch. Several months after arriving for her freshman year Gil, a fellow student who has noticed her in the library, introduces himself. Soon they feel they are in love and plan to marry some day.

Gil and Ellen ar
...more
Jennifer Hughes
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Mildred Walker's writing is deceptively simple. It moves at the pace of life, so slowly that it's almost imperceptible until we can look at it in hindsight. You have to keep reading and trust that the plot movement and character evolution will come. It will. Be patient.

Walker's writing reminds me of Willa Cather or Edith Wharton. Her imagery is haunting. She used the metaphor of winter wheat in ways I'd never think of. This coming-of-age story is of a young woman newly off to college in 1940, b
...more
Rene
Jan 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
Squeaky clean book dealing with the reason for being, beauty, hands, seasons, times when one feels trapped in his/her circumstances, disappointments in parents (and the resolution of those feelings),being free from anyone else (good/bad p. 164), and an interesting Walt Whitman poem (p. 141 "There was a child went forth every day"). Finally, the comparison of how love grows like winter wheat, susceptible to cold, wind, temperatures and the affects of strong and week roots. Ellen explores her love ...more
Bethany
Mar 15, 2014 rated it liked it
I can't decide if this book is three or four stars. This is longer than usual as book club is three weeks off and I need to remember what I'm thinking. The language is beautiful, but the writing has some substantial problems to me. On one hand, the descriptions of the setting are lovely-- it reminds mw of My Antonia in its love for the landscape, but it's less boring and repetitious. The three main characters are beautifully drawn. But the metaphors are heavy-handed. And I don't know why Ellen l ...more
Valerie Petersen
Oct 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
This novel has a descriptive quality that is truly remarkable. The story focuses on a young woman who grows up on a Montana wheat farm, goes off to college in Minnesota for one year where she falls in love. She gets engaged and brings her fiance home to Montana where she sees her roots through his eyes - stark, barren and without love. He breaks off their engagement.

Ellen then begins to see her past through her own eyes again and recognizes what she loved about it. She has many questions about h
...more
Stephany
Jan 13, 2010 rated it liked it
This was a beautiful, enjoyable read that I could not put down. The description (a girl from a dry-wheat ranch in Montana goes to college, can't afford to attend the next year, becomes a teacher) didn't prepare me to like it as much as I did, but Mildred Walker's writing is a treat. It's one of those books in which you pause to reread certain sentences purely for how beautiful they are.

I thought the end became a little earnest and precious, and that it went on for a bit too long, but don't let t
...more
Amy Haluptzok wagler
Loved this book. She describes living in Montana at the start of World War II and the difficulties of ranching and being dependent on the weather. As I read I could picture the plants and flowers (sage, lupine, etc.) and views she was describing. I didn't realize until the end, the book was actually written in 1944. I also thought of the main character as being one of my grandmas's who were both about the same age at the time period in the book. Times were so different then and what was expected ...more
Shirley
Aug 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book about the hardships of life on a Montana wheat farm during the 1940s. It is a coming of age story told by the ninteen-year-old only daughter of a Russian immigrant married to an American soldier during WWI. During the year and a half she experiences her first year at college, her first love, having to leave college because of a poor harvest and a year teaching at a very small isolated one-room school house. She experiences a range of emotions. The writing like the ...more
CarrieLyn
Feb 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It reads like a classic. I loved how we really got inside of Ellen/Yelena's head. I loved the themes of what makes a good marriage, how working side by side builds up a love that means more than romantic love. I loved learning about the time period, the farm life, the significance of the two world wars in so many people's lives. Really glad someone else recommended this on Goodreads, and I really recommend it to others.
Gayle
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It is about a young woman who has lived her life on a farm in Montana. There is enough money to send her to college back east which allowed Ellen to spread her wings. It is not boring, but it feels casual and easy to read. I think I am reminded of Willa Cather's writing and that may be a reason I liked this book so much.
Sarah
Jan 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
A simple and beautiful story about finding love and yourself. Mildred Walker is a talented writer; her storytelling reminds me a lot of Wallace Stegner (high praise from me!) and Willa Cather in "My Antonia."A true writer of the west, and I am glad to have discovered her. Thank you, CarrieLyn, for suggesting this book!
Cheri
Sep 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
A new favorite. Gorgeously written, with characters who are so real that they make you mad and make you cry and make you turn for a fresh look at the wonderful, difficult, beautiful people in your own life. Put Willa Cather in Montana at the start of WWII, and you might get something like this book--a rich, lyrical coming of age story in which the land itself is also a character.
Sue
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Amazing talented author. She captured the rugged beauty of the plains, added in the endless work on a dry land farm and carefully crafted characters you immediately cared about. Some may say it's a dark book...probably "city-slickers", but for those who lived thru ruthless heat and bone-chilling winters, it's a book of reflection, memories and hope.
Hilary
Nov 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
2.5 stars. I had a hard time getting into it. It was a very slow-moving book. I liked the author's use of metaphors throughout the book and at my book club we had an interesting discussion, which is why I gave it 2.5 instead of the 2 stars I was going to originally give it.
Rachel
Feb 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Thank you for this great recommendation Tami. This is written in one of my favorite settings - the Dust Bowl of the 1930's. However, the plot focuses on a young woman's perception of the strange relationship between her parents. Very interesting.
Micebyliz
Jan 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
a must read of a time gone by...yet it is relevant for today. moving and profound.
Carolyn Pina
Jul 19, 2016 rated it liked it
A simple story, and very well told, about farming the plains of Montana. If I could, I would give it 3.5 stars. Good characters, too. I enjoyed it.
Gloria
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classic-lit
In 1944, Winter Wheat was nominated for the National Book Award. This title has been on my "to-read" list for several years now and I'm sorry I did not read it sooner. Soft and gentle in tone, it vividly brings alive the lifestyle of the Great Plains in the years following World War I. Without knowing it, Mildred Walker has written my own mother's story so it feels extraordinarily authentic.

This is the story of a young girl ready for college and love. Both turn out to be more exciting and more c
...more
Bristyl
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
The sentence structure throughout the book was so awkward, it felt like walking through mud. After reading a whole book about Ellen, all I know about her is that she is a hard worker with blond hair, whose parents are bitter toward one another. She had no friends, no hobbies, no interests, and contradicted herself over and over and over again, to the point that I had no idea who she really was at all.
In the last few chapters, Ellen's mother tried to convince her that she and Ellen's father actu
...more
Lynn
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wonderful-reads
Such a lovely, beautifully written story of a Montana farm teen's journey into adulthood. I read this 25 years ago and enjoyed the story then just as much. Coming-of-age, heartache, independence, childhood dreams and resentments, learning to see your parents as real people -- all told in this relatable, touching story.
Ashley
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! The symbolism and parallels between the winter wheat (and even spring wheat) and all the love stories and life lessons was just beautiful. Maybe it's because I grew up on a dry wheat farm, but the love of country, the cycle of a seed, and all the other aspects of farm life that Ellen described really spoke to my soul. Excellent writer.
Bronwyn
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really lovely. A quiet, closely observed coming-of-age novel focused around the shifting relationship a girl has with her parents as she becomes an independent adult. Also much about hard work and simple pleasures, a deep relationship to the land, and a bit of a love story.
Lynne
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I've always liked two kinds of fiction...one that has a really good and solid plot with a few (believable) surprises/twists and one that has great character development... This book fits the bill.

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Mildred Schemm Walker (May 2, 1905 – May 27, 1998) was an American novelist who published 12 novels and was nominated for the National Book Award. She graduated from Wells College and from the University of Michigan. She was a faculty member at Wells College from 1955 to 1968. Walker died in 1998 in Portland, Oregon.

(from Wikipedia)
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“And you've gone on all these years hating each other. Gil felt that hate. He could tell just being here. That's one of the things that drove him away from here, from me...'

Mom was still so long I looked up at her...She shook her head.

...'No, Yelena, I never hate Ben an' Ben don't hate me. Gospode Boge! I love him here so all these years!' Mom touched her breast and her face broke into life. Her eyes were softer. 'Me hate Ben!' she laughed...

I couldn't look at her, but I had to say what was in my mind. 'But all these years, even when I was a child, I've felt that you hated each other. When I heard you that night you both sounded cold and hard.'

Mom made a sound of disgust in her throat. 'That don't mean nothing. We get mad, sure! Like ice an' snow an' thunder an' lightning storm, but they don't hurt the wheat down in the ground any.' Mom picked up her whitewash brush and slapped it against the rough boards. 'Yolochka, you don't know how love is yet.'

...She finished her wall and poured the whitewash that was left back in the bigger pail. 'You can write that young Gil of yours that he don't know what he think he does. Sure, we fight sometime, but we got no hate here.”
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“The words came so fast they seemed to roll down hill. Nobody ever calls it all that; it's just spring wheat, but I like the words. They heap up and make a picture of a spring that's slow to come, when the ground stays frozen late into March and the air is raw, and the skies are sulky and dark” 3 likes
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