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The Big Rock Candy Mountain

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  5,477 Ratings  ·  620 Reviews
Bo Mason, his wife, and his two boys live a transient life of poverty and despair. Drifting from town to town and from state to state, the violent, ruthless Bo seeks his fortune in the hotel business, in new farmland, and, eventually, in illegal rum-running throughout the treacherous back roads of the American Northwest. Each peak of success takes him a little bit higher, ...more
Audio CD, 2 pages
Published January 1st 2010 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1943)
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Dave Norris Amen! I HATED history when I had to memorize the names and dates of legislation, and especially the presidential candidates and dates! But when I…moreAmen! I HATED history when I had to memorize the names and dates of legislation, and especially the presidential candidates and dates! But when I finally had a SOCIAL historian step in and teach the remainder of the term after the assigned prof had disappeared, I began to LOVE history. This is the quote that changed it for me: "From the beginning, the history of America has been 'Go West, to the frontier.' And then one day, the frontier disappeared." The book Big Rock Candy Mountain explores that theme very well, and also gives us a wonderful strong woman protagonist.(less)
Krtka Maybe...but figure on giving the members plenty of time to read it. Nearly 600 pages and with Stegner, you don't want to just skim over the writing.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Steve
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Towards the end of this epic story, Bruce Mason, who was a first year law student barely 20 years old (having skipped a few grades), began keeping a journal. It was not a log of his activities or thoughts on the issues of the day, but rather an attempt to understand a complicated family dynamic with a flawed father driving it. He said the journal was like author’s notes -- another of the many parallels between Bruce and Stegner himself. Both had a saintly mother, a combustible father, an athleti ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Reading Wallace Stegner is like having a really great first boyfriend. He ruins you for anyone who comes later. Sometimes he's so good that you don't even want anyone after him.

The Big Rock Candy Mountain is the book that should have won Stegner the Pulitzer Prize long before he wrote Angle of Repose. I've read commentary indicating that Big Rock Candy Mountain is largely autobiographical. If that is true, my heart aches for the little boy that was Wallace Stegner. Perhaps those early painful ex
...more
Cathrine ☯️
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of American literature
4.5★
If you’ve read Stegner, a man I consider one of America’s national treasures, you will already know his writings are dense. The reader cannot be hurried through. Patience and thoughtfulness are required to appreciate the journey he will take you on, no instant gratification to be found. Unless you love prose for its own sake. This one is divided into ten sections and that’s how I consumed it for a week and a half. Years ago while reading Angle of Repose and Crossing to Safety I recall gettin
...more
Corinne
I feel spent, having finished this book. I took more time reading it than any book in recent memory - and it wasn't only its 563 pages that made it a long read. I had to read with a pen at the ready, so many ideas and images and thoughts I wanted to highlight.

The Big Rock Candy Mountain is a western book. A character study. A journey. But not a there-and-back-again book like Bilbo Baggins wrote. It's a go and go again kind of journey, searching ever further afield for that one thing that will ma
...more
Andrew
Jul 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What Stegner might call a big three-master, this family saga quasi-autobiographically traces the Mason family from their ignominious Midwestern roots through a series of get-rich-quick blunders that takes them from Oregon to Saskatchewan to Montana to Salt Lake to Reno.

Narrated objectively, the book's emotional compass is the family's youngest son, Stegner's version of himself, and the catharsis of this book is what makes its best moments remarkably fine and what overloads the circuitry in the
...more
Doug H
Apr 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book a lot and was going to write one of those long rambling reviews that truly good books deserve (you know: the kind of review that throws in 17 million samples of the author's great writing and 17 million of your own thoughts about life and literature and that make you sound like a completely egotistical pseudo intellectual ass). But, try as I might, that's not happening today. Lucky you!

I'll just say this instead: The character development and the writing are fantastic and ce
...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
'The Big Rock Candy Mountain' vividly describes how the fantasy concept 'The American Dream' actually plays out in reality. It doesn't matter the historical era in the book is from 1900 to the 1930's, or that it takes place primarily in the American and Canadian West. Only technology and medical care separates the events from that period and our current time.

I am mystified why some people believe now, and many more believed widely throughout many societies in past centuries, that intense long b
...more
Laysee
Mar 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laysee by: Liza Fireman

There was no candy on Wallace Stegner's Big Rock Candy Mountain. But there was a rock that set heavily on my heart as I read and the rock got bigger and bigger.

At 576 pages, with 10 parts that spanned the 1890s to 1930s, this is a long novel which made the trek up this mountain quite painful and at times almost unbearable. Here's why. (view spoiler)
...more
Sue
My first Wallace Stegner novel! I am very pleased to have that bridge crossed (all puns intended). It's a story of family,searching for home, escape and return, survival against adversity, the American dream gone wrong, and ultimately, forgiveness.

Told by multiple narrators, the four members of the Mason family, the story covers some thirty plus years in the life of Elsa, the man she comes to love and marry, Bo, and their two sons, Chet and Bruce. During those years, there is love, humor, anguis
...more
Will Byrnes
Oct 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Scott
Aug 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Stegner's attempt to understand his parents and their making of his identity. He beautifully conceals who the real hero of the tale is until the last pages: the somewhat effeminate, philosophical son, who sees both his mother and his father for what they were, but doesn't ultimately begrudge them their sins. After all, they live on in his own history. He could only condemn them as much as he could condemn himself.

The brilliant and intimate storytelling of Stegner's later novels (the not
...more
Marcus
Jul 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american
Why couldn't Stegner be decent and write a book with an antagonist toward whom I could detachedly direct my righteous indignation? Instead, he wrote the Big Rock Candy Mountain with Bo, who is not one of Cormac McCarthy's depraved evil doers. Jarringly, and despite what you might believe otherwise, Bo is me, only in different circumstances. When Bo lashes out at his children or disappoints his wife or goes after another pipe dream that will have him raking in the dollars, it is me. How could he ...more
Rachel
Oct 10, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Stegner lovers, westerners, adventurers
Shelves: fiction
I'm on a Stegner kick. The Big Rock Candy Mountain drags your heart along for the ride as you read about two generations of the Mason family and their (mis)adventures scratching out a life in succeeding versions of America's western frontier. The patriarch Bo Mason berates his wife Elsa and frightens his sons Chet and Bruce across more states than you can count. But even in the end, his insatiable taste for booms and busts remains endearing, or at least somehow forgivable.

A little long towards
...more
Heidi
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What happens when a beautiful, gentle woman, unused to physical hardship, marries a stubborn, nomadic adventurer with an itch, a daredevil determined to realize the American dream and “make his pile” any way he can?

We sure find out.

This is Stegner’s second novel, epic in length and scope compared with his first book, a novella called Remembering Laughter, and in it he teaches himself what works and what doesn’t. What a gift for a reader to be able to watch that learning unfold.

The dialogue amo
...more
Ellie
Mar 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow....what can I say that can do justice to this book? It's quite a journey with Stegner's family, from before he was born until early adulthood. His father has grandiose ideas and a restless spirit and drags the family all over several states as well as Saskatchewan, Canada looking for the next "get rich quick" scheme. Although the book jacket synopsis calls Bo Mason (the character name for Stegner's dad) "ruthless and violent" he is more than that, a multi-layered character. It's fascinating ...more
Shelli
This was a slow burn. At times difficult to read and at times heart wrenching . If you need a faster pace this might not be for you. If you want to feel like you actually know these characters by the end, then it is. I did read this with trepidation throughout, due to the volatile nature of the main character Bo Mason. Stegner for me has the ability to think of a story in his head and when he puts pen to paper it reads like you are there in the story. Very real. No gimmicks. This book is called ...more
Petra
Nov 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book. Lots of very flawed characters.
Who’s to “blame” when a family goes wrong? "Blame" is in quotes because I wonder whether there is true blame. Can we be blamed for being ourselves, wanting our dreams/hopes/desires, carrying the hurts of our yesterdays? Can we be blamed for living by the confinements imposed on us by our past?
I suppose, in a way, we can. We could break the pattern, change our destiny, etc. In theory, it's all possible. But it takes a very aware (of one's own issues) and
...more
LemonLinda
Dec 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is such a raw, truth telling, gut wrenching read. If this is, as I have read it was, crafted to be loosely and liberally based around the story of the author and his father, then what a childhood he must have had and how remarkable that he grew to overcome those childhood experiences with such insight into the human psyche as he displays in his books.

This is the third Stegner novel that I have read and all are deep, thought-provoking books that fully develop the characters and show them fr
...more
Kirk Smith
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
The high rating is because it is flawless very detailed writing. Descriptions of the American West and of nature or the elements are all beautifully rendered. Title is descriptive of the footloose patriarch of the family and the story is as good as I expected. As if a blending of A River Runs Through It and Sinclair Lewis' Babbit in reverse(an anti-Babbit). And now the other side of this,though I did not drowse while reading,I was aware the book was.. longiiishhhh. Just this edge of painful bec ...more
Ruth
Sep 24, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A big fat sprawling novel with a fascinating story line. Exactly the kind of book I used to love to wallow in. Now, however, such books make me restless. I want more and at the same time I want less. The writing, of course, is good, if not lyrical. The plot was always believeable. I’d like to have been Stegnor’s editor, taking a blue pencils to those passages of endless description, and those sections where he felt compelled to explain every motive and every thought in his characters’ heads.
Robert
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know why it has taken me so long to read my way through Wallace Stegner's fiction, and it feels odd to be giving a novel published in 1943 such high marks as a compelling narrative that captures some of the rougher times in American history so powerfully.

I'm sure all my praise for The Big Rock Candy Mountain has been offered before, but I'll offer it again. While the book starts slowly--Part I is the weakest part--it gathers strength as it unfurls the struggles of Harry "Bo" Mason, Elsa
...more
Harold Titus
Mar 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book moved me to tears. Perhaps that is because I am in my seventies and have lived and witnessed much of what Wallace Stegner writes about. Perhaps it is because I have come to understand how complex human beings are and how easily they can bring injury and hardship upon the people they love.

The novel begins in the year 1905 in Minnesota and ends in Utah in the 1930s. Its central character is Harry “Bo” Mason, a physically powerful, aggressive person who left his parents’ home at the age o
...more
Regan
Jun 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose is absolutely one of my favorite books. The beauty of Stegner’s prose combined with a plot that follows the challenges of settling in the West that my own ancestors faced makes it resonate with me deeply: From wishful goldmines in Nevada to bootlegging and moving and moving and moving and switching jobs over and over.

I hoped I’d have the same reaction to The Big Rock Candy Mountain. It’s got much of the same beautiful prose and understanding of living in and mak
...more
Janet
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-years-ago
This book lingers in my mind, a family saga of the boom-and-bust Northwest, drifting, struggling, rumrunning, hapless and hopeful, evidently a largely autobiographical book of this essential writer of the American West, he published in 1943. The Big Rock Candy Mountain is a mountain in Utah near where Stegner grew up, which took its name from the striped rock formations and, probably, from a hoboing song of the 1920s… There's an edition to which his student Robert Stone wrote the foreword--I'd r ...more
Heather
Jan 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Wallace Stegner! This is the second book I read by him, after the Angle of Repose. I really enjoy his writing style and Pioneer America settings. His focus on female characters and love stories in addition to the very accurate historical details make his works must reads.
Abby
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“A man is not a static organism to be taken apart and analyzed and classified. A man is movement, motion, a continuum. There is no beginning to him. He runs through his ancestors, and the only beginning is the primal beginning of the single cell in the slime. The proper study of mankind is man, but man is an endless curve on the eternal graph paper, and who can see the whole curve?”


A large, moving, and human novel about a star-crossed American family around the turn of the century who just can't
...more
Michael
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wallace Stegner was an excellent writer and storyteller, and this novel from the early 1940s will keep you turning its pages. Unless the book's almost unrelenting grimness finally stops you -- which I hope it does not, because I found this a heckuva book. The Big Rock Candy Mountain is the goal of the father of the family depicted here -- that is, a mirage of get-rich-quick wealth that seems so readily attainable in the vast spread of the American West, it hypnotizes him into unceasing pursuit.. ...more
Sunny Shore
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everytime I read Wallace Stegner, I am totally immersed. This book was probably not my favorite, as I loved Angle of Repose and Crossing to Safety more. Yet, we live with these characters that Stegner has developed for us and it is a gift to witness his written word that he has left behind having left us about 40 years ago. After reading Stegner book, I'm more critical of other writers. In this one, Bo Mason, a rough and tough midwesterner in the early part of the 20th century meets Elsa and fal ...more
Todd Martin
Dec 31, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The Big Rock Candy Mountain is a story of a troubled family making its way through the early part of the 20th century as told from the alternating points of view of its members and in the 3rd person. The plot (as far as it goes) is driven by the father, an ambitious dreamer with anger management issues who seeks to “make his pile” through one get-rich scheme or another.

Here’s the basic format of the book’s plot: Dad comes up with a far-fetched get-rich scheme. The scheme falls through. Dad gets
...more
Jennifer Hughes
Nov 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: epics
This is a difficult book to review because it is the full saga of a man and his wife and then their children. It starts out like a cute Western or a Bonanza episode, and then it switches pretty quickly to a classic Stegner study of relationships: love, loyalty, jealousy, despair, heartache.

The protagonist is a man born after his time, a pioneer and explorer born after the taming of the West, who restlessly searches for the easy life on "the big rock candy mountain" that he's sure is out there s
...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Audiobook separated into 2 parts with 2 ISBNs - merge or not? 5 37 Jun 12, 2012 08:43PM  
Current reading 4 31 Feb 04, 2012 09:41PM  
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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.
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“There was somewhere, if you knew where to find it, some place where money could be made like drawing water from a well, some Big Rock Candy Mountain where life was effortless and rich and unrestricted and full of adventure and action, where something could be had for nothing.” 8 likes
“People, he had said, were always being looked at as points, and they ought to be looked at as lines. There weren't any points, it was false to assume that a person ever was anything. He was always becoming something, always changing, always continuous and moving, like the wiggly line on a machine used to measure earthquake shocks. He was always what he was in the beginning, but never quite exactly what he was; he moved along a line dictated by his heritage and his environment, but he was subject to every sort of variation within the narrow limits of his capabilities.
...
She shut her mind on that too. There was danger in looking at people as lines. The past spread backward and you saw things in perspective that you hadn't seen then, and that made the future ominous, more ominous than if you just looked at the point, at the moment. There might be truth in what Bruce said, but there was not much comfort.”
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