Rachel Terry's Reviews > Wolf Willow

Wolf Willow by Wallace Stegner
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's review
Mar 18, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: west, memoir

Wallace Stegner is one of my top 10 favorite writers (don't ask me who the others are--I haven't thought that far ahead). In this book, Stegner returns to Saskatchewan where he lived as a child from 1914 to 1920. He wants to substantiate his childhood memories and learn about the area's impact on his life. He goes farther than his own memories by interviewing other people and researching the area. His insights are powerful. This book really made me think.

The reason I only gave it 4 stars is because although I really loved much of it, I lost interest in parts. Perhaps I just don't care enough about Saskatchewan, or maybe some of the history was much more interesting to Stegner than it is to me. It took me a while to get through it.

But I kept copying down passages that were too precious to leave on the shelf at the library. Like this: "This day I looked up from something just in time to see the batter swing and a foul tip catch Alfie full in the face. For a second he stayed bent over with a hand over his mouth; I saw the blood start in a quick stream through his fingers. My feelings were very badly mixed, for I had dreamed often enough of doing just that to Alfie Carpenter's face, but I was somewhat squeamish about human pain and I couldn't enjoy seeing the dream come true....watching him, my father broke out in a short, incredulous laugh. 'Tough kid!' he said to the man next, and the tone of his voice goose-pimpled me like a breeze on a sweaty skin, for in all my life he had never spoken either to or of me in that voice of approval."

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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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message 1: by Krisette (new)

Krisette Spangler I love Stegner too, but I hadn't heard of this book. I'm excited to read it.

Rachel Terry I think Wolf Willow is a good one to read after you've already read some other Stegner books because it's certainly not plot-driven. Did you read Crossing to Safety?

message 3: by Krisette (new)

Krisette Spangler Yes, it was the first Stegner I read. I thought I had read most of his, but this was one that I didn't know existed. Is it a new one?

Rachel Terry I think it was written in the 50's. I love hearing from a westerner of that time period because most of the well-known early 20th century literature came from the east coast.

message 5: by Krisette (new)

Krisette Spangler I just realized that was a silly question as he passed away in 1993.

Rachel Terry He could be writing still...

message 7: by Stacy (new)

Stacy Rachel have you read Angle of Repose? I also love Crossing to Safety. It was the first Wallace Stegner I read and probably one of my very favorite. He writes beautifully and says things we only barely comprehend when we think but his material is often so heartbreaking I almost dread reading it.

Rachel Terry Yes, I read Angle of Repose. I liked it because I've been to so many of those places. It was fun reading about Leadville because the few times I've been there I've wondered how people can actually live there. We spoke in the Leadville Branch once, and I thought, "These people are tough!" Another thing I liked about that book was the interesting characters. You wouldn't think that an adventurous engineer would cultivate roses, but that hobby added so much to the complexity of his character. Stegner's characters always make me think that there's more to people than you could ever possibly uncover. Have you read any of his other books? I think he was a classmate of Pres. Hinckley in the English dept. at Univesity of Utah.

message 9: by Stacy (new)

Stacy In some ways the characters of Stegner remind me of the ones we meet in Willa Cather novels. They are hardy, pioneer people who live rough lives but every once in a while you come across someone who has the soul of a poet and they don't quite fit in. They know there is something more out there but can't always make circumstances bend to help their situation. It's also a good reminder not to make snap judgements about people and places, although I feel generalities still apply (most of the time). I didn't know Stegner was in President Hinkley's class I just knew there was some sort of connection with Mormons. Are there any other Stegner's you would recommend?

message 10: by Rachel (last edited Mar 20, 2010 01:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rachel Terry I haven't run across one I haven't liked. I remember enjoying The Spectator Bird, but I don't remember much about it. That's a good connection between Stegner and Willa Cather.

message 11: by Krisette (new)

Krisette Spangler I liked All the Little Live Things as well. He kept referring to his antagonist as Caliban, which really gives you an interesting visual image.

Rachel Terry I didn't think of that.

message 13: by Stacy (new)

Stacy Caliban gives me the creeps. Plus it sortive rhymes with Taliban. That can't be good. Right?

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