Stephanie's Reviews > All the Little Live Things

All the Little Live Things by Wallace Stegner
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's review
Oct 19, 2007

really liked it

Stegner's Joe Allport is the quintessential cranky old man, with whom all is not as it seems to the casual observer. After the death of his estranged son, Joe and his wife Ruth decide to make a new start in 1960's California (I can't quite pin down where -- I think north of San Francisco), at a time before mass development hit that area. In trying for a retreat from the world, the world comes to Joe's doorstep and takes him by the throat. Joe has little tolerance for hippies and the countercultural movement of the time, yet he acknowledges (in retrospect) that one such character perhaps could have helped him heal the wounds left from his son's life and death; out of an all-too-human sense of righteousness and an angry impulse that he can't control, Joe squanders this opportunity.

Though I enjoy Stegner's writing immensely, from the 3 books I have read, his female characters seem to be stamped from one of two molds: 1) wise and forbearing wives or 2) spirited, in-love-with-living women who come to a tragic, yet somehow noble, end. I think I read in an introduction to the book that it was the death of his mother (or wife? or both?) from cancer that was highly influential for him -- and this has certainly shown up in this book.

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