The novel tells the story of Lyman Ward, a retired professor of history and author of books about the Western frontier, who returns to his ancestral ...Show synopsisThe novel tells the story of Lyman Ward, a retired professor of history and author of books about the Western frontier, who returns to his ancestral home in the Sierra Nevada. Wheelchair-bound with a crippling bone disease, Ward embarks nonetheless on a search to rediscover his grandmother, no long dead, who made her own journey to Grass Valley nearly a hundred years earlier.Hide synopsis
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This love story beautifully captures the tension between the sophisticated East and the bumptious ever optimistic West during the second half of the nineteenth century. If you want to learn how the western pioneers and opportunists really lived and thought while following the not so easy marriage of the fully fleshed out protaganists of the story then you will enjoy and appreciate this classic novel.
Although this is fiction, I learned more about 19th century America, especially the west, than I ever did from history books. It is really two stories in one: The narrator tells us about his life as a middle-aged man in a wheelchair, living alone, fighting to maintain his independence., while at the same time he is telling us about a book he is writing about his grandparents, who were among those involved with the earliest mining camps in America. It is the act of writing this book that keeps him sane.
The characterizations of his grandparents and their children are fascinating, as they move from mining camp to mining camp, living under wild and primitive conditions, building America.
I have bad news for aspiring writers...the great American novel has already been written. Wallace Stegner is perennially under rated, but no one should miss this sweeping story of a modern man and his ancestors who helped settle the West. It's simply brilliant - each page has language that is stunning in its simple elegance and the story is truly amazing. I can't recommend this book enough.
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