Monthly Archives: April 2008

Sunday Salon – April 27, 2008

Sunday Salon

April 27, 2008

9:00 AM

A cerulean sky peeking between the branches of the pines greeted me when I woke up this morning. Temperatures are predicted to hit 80 degrees this afternoon – a perfect day for working outside or taking a walk…and maybe I’ll squeeze in some late in the day reading out on the porch.

I made a dent in a couple of my challenges this week by reading Lost & Found, by Jacqueline Sheehan (read my review) and The World Below, by Sue Miller (read my review). Sheehan’s novel is a very quick read – and it has a dog in it, so it was the perfect choice for a busy week. Miller’s book was more of a thoughtful read which grew stronger as I made my way through its pages. Next up: Independent People, by Halldor Laxness…which was slated to be read two months ago for Books In Translation Yahoo group. It’s a chunkster at 500 pages, and was written in 1955 – earning its author the Nobel Prize for Literature. I made a little progress last night before drifting off to sleep and have already marked a couple of passages. Here’s one where the protagonist is walking and talking to his dog as he surveys his new land:

“Take my word for it, freedom is of more account than the height of a roof beam. I ought to know; mine cost me eighteen years’ slavery. The man who lives on his own land is an independent man. He is his own master. If I can keep my sheep alive through the winter and can pay what has been stipulated from year to year – then I pay what as been stipulated; and I have kept my sheep alive. No, it is freedom that we are all after, Titla. He who pays his way is a king. He who keeps his sheep alive through the winter lives in a palace.” -From Independent People, page 13-

This is the type of book I usually enjoy, so I have high hopes for it.

Many thanks to J.C. Montgomery from The Biblio Brat who recommended I read two essays in particular from the E.B. White collection. I took your advice, J.C., and was not disappointed. The Ring of Time (penned in March 1956) is masterfully written. White places the reader ringside at the winter quarters of Mr. John Ringling North’s circus where he treats us to a young girl’s ride around the ring on the back of a horse. White writes:

“She is at that enviable moment in life [I thought] when she believes she can go once around the ring, make one complete circuit, and at the end be exactly the same age as at the start.” Everything in her movements, her expression, told you that for her the ring of time was perfectly formed, changeless, predictable, without beginning or end, like the ring in which she was traveling at this moment with the horse that wallowed under her. -From Essays of EB White, page 182-

White then makes an abrupt departure from the circus and takes us to the south – to Florida – where he ruminates on the idea of separate but equal. How, I thought, will he connect this idea to the previous one? And it is through this concept of the passage of time which he does it. White writes:

The sense that is common to one generation is uncommon to the next. Probably the first slave ship, with Negroes lying in chains on its decks, seemed commonsensical to the owners who operated it and to the planters who patronized it. But such a vessel would not be in the realm of common sense today. The only sense that is common, in the long run, is the sense of change – and we all instinctively avoid it, and object to the passage of time, and would rather have none of it. -From The Essays of EB White, page 185-

And this is the beauty of White’s essays – he takes you on a journey along a crooked path and leads you where he wants you to go.  This particular essay is beautifully written and delivers a message the reader cannot ignore.

The second essay recommended by J.C. was Once More to the Lake (penned in August 1941). I loved this piece because it catapulted me back to my own youth when my family would visit with friends ‘on the lake.’ White’s description of the summer cabins (‘…the bedroom smelled of the lumber it was made of and of the wet woods whose scent entered through the screen. The partitions in the camp were thin and did not extend clear to the top of the rooms,…’) was a perfect rendition of my own memory. White tells of re-visiting the lake of his boyhood, only this time he is an adult and takes his young son with him. The essay is about the passage of time, and the blurring of the generations. It is a short, completely satisfying read.

********

This week I was spurred to think about the books we choose to read after having read a couple of blog posts.  Sam from The Book Chase posted an article about Anne Perry’s past. Apparently Anne Perry (who is really Juliet Hulme) participated in the gruesome bludgeoning murder of her best friend’s mother when Anne/Juliet was only sixteen years old. She served a brief time behind bars, and now is the best selling author of murder mysteries. The discussion that ensued at Sam’s blog is worth reading. Some readers cannot separate the author from her crime; others are not terribly bothered by it.

Then, earlier this week, I read Laura’s brief review of In A Free State, by V.S. Naipaul. Laura didn’t especially like the book, and she wrote: ‘I found it impossible to get past Naipaul’s misogynist history, having psychologically abused his wife for many, many years.

Last year I read Zelda, the biography of Zelda Fitzgerald (read my review). I gained a not too flattering view of F.Scott Fitzgerald, and have since had no desire to read any of his novels.

So, I began to wonder – how often do we, as readers, steer clear of an author’s books because of what we know about the author. Does an author’s past interfere with the enjoyment of their work? I believe my own views are influenced by the fact that I am also a writer – and I understand that a writer uses their own experiences and belief systems when crafting their work. Fiction always has a bit of reality woven through its pages. After learning about Anne Perry’s criminal past, I am not too interested in reading her novels (especially since they revolve around murder which apparently Ms. Perry knows quite a bit about). I will be reading Naipaul, but Laura’s words will echo in my brain as I do so. What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Weekly Geeks – Week of April 26, 2008

This week is the first week of Dewey’s Weekly Geeks – she is still looking for someone to make a button if any of you are good with that kind of thing.

The challenge this week is: Discover New Blogs Week

  1. Look through the list of blogs for the participants of Weekly Geeks; find five that are new to you. If you can’t, find as many new blogs as possible and then some you don’t read super regularly.
  2. Visit those new blogs and leave a comment.
  3. By Friday (May 2nd) write a post in your blog featuring those new blogs you visited.
  4. Go back to the post about this week, and leave a link to your blog post.

I discovered that a lot of my blogging friends are doing this fun weekly event! But, I also found some new blogs which I’ve now added to my Google Reader (oh dear!).

Adventures in Reading has some great literary and art links … and this blogger knows how to write an interesting article. I will definitely be visiting again.

Amateur de Livre’s Weblog is a well designed, fun blog to browse. I discovered a meme, of sorts, which lists the top 106 books most marked ‘unread’ on Library Thing. I think I’ll have to do this one!

Everyday Reads (lightheaded takes on books and comic, lovely or otherwise!) is mostly dedicated to reading, and the design and conversational tone drew me right in.

Kay’s Bookshelf appealed to me immediately. She’s a software developer and it shows on her well organized blog. I love the way Kay lists her authors down the left side of the page with links to her reviews.

The Curvature is: “A feminist perspective on politics and culture.” I was immediately intrigued. I don’t consider myself a rabid feminist, but I have a rabid interest in women’s issues. I was raised to be a strong woman, and so the idea of asserting myself is well ingrained! I also am watching the American political scene very closely. Could America actually elect a woman as President? I hope so, but I’ve learned not to be overly optimistic when it comes to things like this. Anyway, The Curvature, is a cutting edge blog – one that doesn’t mince words. I like it.

The World Below – Book Review

worldbelow.jpg But what lasts, after all? What stays the same through the generations? Boundaries shift, refugees die or flee with what they can carry, the waters slowly fill in behind the dams, and what was once there is lost forever, except in dreams and memories. – From The World Below, page 268-

Sue Miller’s 7th novel – The World Below – begins in Maine in the early part of the twentieth century with Georgia Rice. Georgia’s mother has recently died from cancer, and Georgia – being the eldest child of three siblings – steps into the role of caring for her father and younger brother and sister. But an unexpected diagnosis of tuberculosis sends her to a sanitarium which will change her life in unexpected ways.

Fast forward to the present day where the reader is introduced to Georgia’s 50-something year old granddaughter, Catherine Hubbard who has returned to her grandparent’s home to start over again after a recent divorce. Catherine discovers her grandmother’s diaries, and begins to piece together Georgia’s life.

What I felt, I think, as I read and reread the diaries, was that I was somehow coming to know her, to understand what her deeper thoughts were under the quotidian of the surface. What I felt was that understanding these slender books would somehow let me piece together too what lay under the later loving surface of my grandparents’ lives together. -From The World Below, page 123-

She discovers her own life has paralleled her grandmother’s in inexplicable ways. We learn (through flash backs) that Catherine’s mother, mentally ill and fragile, dies when Catherine is only a teenager, and Catherine briefly goes to live with her grandparents – who are now living in Vermont. During this time in her life, she senses a deep undercurrent of old resentments and misunderstandings which lie beneath the surface of her grandparent’s marriage. Later, as an adult, Catherine starts her own family … and suffers through two painful divorces, leaving her to wonder what her future will bring.

The World Below is a multi-layered, non-linear novel which slips back and forth between the generations. It is a novel about the subtle power struggles within a marriage, the loss of childhood innocence, the re-discovery of self as one moves through the years, and the tenuous hold we have on the past.

I must admit to the novel being slow going for me and a little confusing (with all the flash backs and change in point of view) at the start; but as I made my way through Georgia and Catherine’s lives, their stories began to interest me, and I was slowly pulled into the story. Miller writes with great depth and understanding of her characters – who are filled with the human flaws we all share. Her writing is honest and searing, forcing the reader to examine her own life while sharing the lives of the characters. I have enjoyed Miller’s previous books, and this was no exception.

Recommended; stars3h.gif

Weekly Geeks

Dewey from The Hidden Side of a Leaf has come up with a great idea called Weekly Geeks. Here’s the concept:

1. Every week there’ll be a different theme. One week might be “catch up on your library books” week and the next might be “redecorate your blog week” or “organize your challenges” week or “catch up on your reviews” week. It’ll be fairly bookblogcentric, but not exclusively.

2. Everyone who joins agrees that they will try to check each week to see what the theme is, although they DO NOT have to participate each week, only when they feel like it.

3. Everyone who joins is welcome (encouraged, begged!) to send ideas for weekly themes via email, comments, whatever. The more ideas, the better.

4. If you post about your progress with that week’s theme in your blog (whether you were wildly successful or didn’t get around to any of it) then you can come back and leave a link to that post in the comments for that theme.

AND there is a chocolate monkey give-a-way for those participants who post about this idea before the end of April. I’m very motivated by chocolate – so here’s the post, Dewey!!

Jackfish Review Published at Piker Press

My review of Sarah Felix Burns’ novel: Jackfish the Vanishing Village is being published on line this week at the ezine Piker Press.  Why not drop in and read the rest of this week’s edition which is loaded with great short fiction, serialized fiction, photography and more. The Piker Press has a group of talented writers and has been offering up some of the best writing on the Internet for several years now.

pikerpresslogo.jpg

Lost and Found – Book Review

lostfound.jpg His life is ocean, stick, ball, sand, grass, ride in the truck, sleep by the bed, look deep into the eyes of humans, lure them outdoors, greet them with a burst of joy when they come home, love them. Fill this brief life with more. And more. -From Lost and Found-

When Rocky’s husband Bob dies suddenly at the age of forty-two, Rocky’s life is blown apart. Faced with the dark force of grief and unable to cope with her life as a psychologist, she flees from her home in Massachusetts to the isolated, wind-blown beaches of Peak’s Island, Maine. Rocky quickly finds a part-time job working as an Animal Control Warden, filling her long days with cat rescues and trapping skunks. Her wish is to bury her painful losses, but it is not long before she meets Tess (a retired physical therapist who views the world in a rainbow of colors), Isaiah (her boss who is a former minister), Melissa (a teenager hiding an eating disorder), and Hill (an archery instructor whose life may not be all it seems). These characters become part of Rocky’s everyday life on the island, gently prying her loose from her heartache. But it is her encounter with a stray black lab who has been shot with an arrow which will change her life forever.

Jacqueline Sheehan has crafted a novel which explores the depths of grief and loss, and the slow process of recovery. She weaves a story filled with mystery and suspense, but more importantly one which tenderly reveals the magical bond between human and animal. Sheehan’s characters create an authentic presence in the story, making the reader believe in the complex situations of their lives. She successfully gives the dog, Lloyd, a point of view which is at once touching and all too real.

Lost and Found is a book which will resonate with anyone who has suffered a loss or struggled with difficult issues; but it will especially touch the hearts of dog lovers. I gulped down this book in two sittings in less than a 24 hour period. I was simply tugged into the story and unable to let it go.

Highly recommended; stars4h.gif

The Lace Reader – Book Review

lacereader.jpg The Lace Reader must stare at the piece of lace until the pattern blurs and the face of the Seeker disappears completely behind the veil. When the eyes begin to fill with tears and the patience is long exhausted, there will appear a glimpse of something not quite seen. In this moment an image will begin to form…in the space between what is real and what is only imagined. -From The Lace Reader, page 1-

Brunonia Barry’s debut novel, The Lace Reader, is an unusual story which (like the lace which her Great Aunt Eva ‘reads’) is difficult to understand until the final pages. Part mystery with a literary twist exploring women’s issues (incest, mental illness, and family dynamics), the novel evolves slowly, developing from multiple story threads which all come back to the central character – Towner Whitney. The novel opens in Towner’s point of view, and the reader is warned: ‘Never believe me. I lie all the time.

Towner Whitney lives in California, but is motivated to return to her birthplace in Salem, Massachusetts when her brother calls to report Towner’s great aunt missing. Once back in New England, Towner must unravel the mystery of Eva’s disappearance while coming to terms with her own shattered past. Salem is recognized historically for the famous witch trials of 1692 and is an apt setting for a book which spins around precognition and the idea of intuition. As the story unfolds, it becomes difficult to ascertain what is real and what is only imagined. Barry alternates point of view from chapter to chapter – something which adds depth to her story and helps to fill in the missing pieces of Towner’s childhood.

Barry’s writing is strong, creating a gothic feel to the book. She steers away from cliche characters, instead giving us complex individuals. Despite these strengths, the book is not without its weaknesses.

At times the plot felt thin to me – and although the ending has a surprise twist, many times I was able to predict an event before it unfolded. I also wondered about the accuracy of police procedure when one character ‘disappears’ and a full-blown search is immediately begun. In most adult missing person cases searches do not occur for at least 48 hours as often it is assumed the person chose to disappear. I also thought it unlikely that a police department would assist an abusive man in finding an adult woman who had disappeared. Additionally, I picked up one geographical flaw which made me question the author’s reliability in other areas. A person residing in Sonoma County, California would not drive ‘up the coast to see it.‘ Rather they must follow a non-coastal route south to San Francisco. This seemed like a pretty obvious fact to get wrong.

The Lace Reader has an aggressive marketing campaign with a release date of July 29, 2008. Early reviews of the book have been mostly positive. I found it a quick and engaging read despite its flaws.

Rated: stars3h.gif

Sunday Salon – April 20, 2008

Sunday Salon

April 20, 2008

Good morning to all the Saloners. I hope you are all curled up reading a good book. I’ve had a wonderful weekend of reading and cooking…and despite the cooler weather, I’ve enjoyed some porch time in the sun here:

lowerporch0001.JPG (Click to Enlarge photo)

A couple of weekends ago, I painted that little wicker table red – and love the splash of color it gives the lower porch.

angleofrepose.jpg This week I finished reading Stegner’s Angle of Repose (read my review). Wow. I cannot believe I waited so long to read a Wallace Stegner novel. I loved this one and plan on reading all his novels now. Stegner rivals Steinbeck in my opinion – and that is not an accolade I give lightly.

Some of you may remember my post last week regarding a negative article about John Steinbeck. Well, Zunguzungu’s blog owner posted a link to his take on Robert Gottlieb’s article and it is well worth the read. I wonder if Gottlieb has been reading these reactions – I hope so.

lacereader.jpg I’m well into an Advance Reader’s Edition of The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry. This is her first novel and it is set in Salem, Massachusetts with its rich history of the witch trials. I’m not entirely sure how to characterize this book – the writing is good, but the plot is convoluted and a bit thin in places. I will refrain from a final decision since I’m still 100 pages from the end. I’ve learned that sometimes a book turns around in those final pages, reversing a so-so opinion into a good one.

Other Early Review Books on My Nightstand:

  • Laughing Without An Accent, by Firoozeh Dumas
  • The House at Midnight, by Lucie Whitehouse
  • The Island of Eternal Love, by Daina Chaviano
  • The Wednesday Sisters, by Meg Waite Clayton
  • Volk’s Shadow, by Brent Ghelfi
  • Black Wave, by John and Jean Silverwood

I’ve decided to read these in order of release date, alternating with other books on my shelf.

Later today, I think I’ll delve back into E.B. White’s wonderful essays and catch up on my magazine reading. There is a new Sunset Magazine and Country Home just screaming to be read. The fire is crackling, the cats are drowsing, and there is plenty of leftovers in the fridge. All I need to do is put the teapot on, and I have the perfect recipe for reading.

Happy Sunday to all of you…see you next week.

Life in the Slow Lane – Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook

notyourmothersslowcooking.jpg

Americans are known throughout the modern world for their love of new technology in the mechanical and electronic realms. Any piece of equipment or tool that can do the job better and faster is immediately embraced and touted. So who could have predicted the success of a kitchen appliance that does the job more slowly? -From Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, page 1-

I decided to live life in the slow lane this weekend, cooking from Beth Hensperger’s wonderful cookbook – Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook. I became an instant fan of Hensperger when I began using her Bread Machine Cookbook: The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook. I have yet to find a bread recipe there which isn’t delicious…and my copy of the cookbook has worn edges, food dripped pages, and sprawling notations throughout.

Hensperger collaborated with Julie Kaufmann to write her Slow Cooker Cookbook: ‘We found the slow cooker style of cooking is designed to complement the way we live- it is time conscious, economical, energy conscious, and reliable. We cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients, and we could cook the same dishes as easily for a dinner party as for a family supper.‘ The authors begin by giving a history of the slow cooker – noting that the Rival company developed this new appliance in 1971, marketing it as a tool for the working woman who wanted to serve her family homemade food despite her long hours away from the home. Slow cooking actually has its roots many years before Rival made it appealing to busy women – the technique of putting many root vegetables and tough meats in a burning fire pit (sometimes for up to 24 hours) to tenderize and meld their flavors was used by indigenous people in prehistoric times. Slow cooking is moist-heat cooking – cooking foods in a closed environment to utilize hot liquid in breaking down plants with lots of fiber, or meats with lots of connective tissue.

Among other things Hensperger and Kaufman provide information on shapes and sizes of slow cookers, temperature settings, high altitude cooking, and guidelines for adapting conventional recipes to slow cooking. All the information is organized for quick reference. The cookbook is broken up into sections including porridges to soups to rices and grains to main courses (by type) to desserts, jams, butters and compotes. Each recipe specifies the size of cooker best suited to the recipe as well as setting and cook time to be used.

I decided to cook from several sections of the cookbook: From the Porridge Pot; The Slow Cooker Soup Pot; Poultry, Game Birds, and Rabbit; and Slow Cooker Puddings, Cakes, and Breads. For all the dishes (except the oatmeal and tapioca pudding) I used Rival’s large Smart Pot (model #3850) which allows the cook to chose high or low setting and set a timer. It also has a warming feature.

hoisinchicken010001.JPG

Thursday Evening

Orange Hoisin Chicken (page 271) combines orange juice concentrate, honey, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, fresh ginger, garlic, sesame oil and frozen boneless chicken breasts to create a delicious meal. The ginger and garlic meld together for a subtle, yet delectable flavor. The recipe indicates that sprinkling toasted sesame seeds on top of the chicken is optional – but I would strongly suggest following this step as it adds a wonderful nutty flavor to the dish. Toasting sesame seeds takes only a few minutes in a dry fry pan, and is well worth the effort. I paired the dish with American Basmati and Wild Rice (Safeway Select brand) which complimented the dish without overpowering it. I also whipped up a simple, baby green salad with Italian dressing. This is a dish I would make again.

minestronesoupryebread0001.JPG breadmachinecookbook.jpg minestronesoup010001.JPG

Friday Afternoon

Friday was a cold, breezy day in Northern California – the perfect weather for soup and a loaf of hot, homemade bread. Minestrone Soup (page 63) uses a good amount of fresh vegetables: yellow onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, and Swiss Chard. It also requires canned red kidney beans, frozen baby lima beans, fresh parsley, a can of whole tomatoes, canned (or homemade) chicken broth, some type of macaroni or shell pasta (I used cappelletti), and a dry red wine. It gently cooks for about 8 hours (times may vary according to your machine) and fills the house with a mouthwatering smell. This recipe required the vegetables (except for the Swiss Chard) to be sauteed before being added to the pot. The result was a delicious, flavorful soup. I accompanied it with one of my favorite recipes from Hensperger’s bread machine cookbook: Sour Cream Rye (page 139). This bread is very moist and is a perfect addition to any vegetable based soup. This meal was delicious with a glass of BV Pinot Noir (which was also the wine I used in the recipe).

Saturday Morning

My husband and I woke to hot Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal (page 28) on Saturday morning. I prepared the recipe the evening before and let the cooker cook all night. This was my first experience with my small Rival slow cooker (model #3215) which does not have a choice of settings nor a timer. I wasn’t sure at what temperature I was cooking – and as it turned out, the cooker got very hot causing the oatmeal to stick to the bottom. The porridge was just okay – a little too bland for my taste. If I were to make it again, I would first spray the cooker with nonstick, butter flavored spray and add more cinnamon.

 

chixpotatoesonions0001.JPG For dinner, I prepared Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken with Potatoes and Mushrooms (page 285) which is cooked on a high setting using a 4 pound broiler chicken, lemon, paprika, parsley, onion, garlic, soy sauce, Yukon Gold potatoes and fresh mushrooms. This recipe had a mistake in it (maybe two mistakes) in that it failed to tell me when to add the mushrooms. I decided to add them on the top along with the potatoes. It also did not indicate that the potatoes should be halved or quartered…and since they were small, I simply put them in whole. This turned out to be a mistake as they did not cook through. At 3.5 hours, I removed them, halved them and returned them to the pot. Even still, they were a bit undercooked at 5 hours (a half hour PAST the estimated cook time). Despite this, the meal was actually very flavorful and the chicken was done perfectly. The onion and lemon flavors melded beautifully and gave the dish an elegant taste. I would make this dish again, but would quarter the potatoes before adding them to the pot.

For dessert, I cooked Tapioca Pudding (page 432), an old favorite from childhood. Once again I used my small slow cooker, but this time (as advised in the recipe) I sprayed the inside of it with non stick vegetable spray first. The pudding was absolutely delicious topped with whipped cream. It made four small servings, which my husband and I consumed all in one sitting!

Concluding Notes

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed cooking from this cookbook. There are many recipes I did not try, but which I marked to make at a future date. A sampling includes: Corn Chowder (page 70), Cream of Artichoke Soup (page 73), Lazy Day Braised Pot Roast (page 316), Roast Pork With Apples (page 359), Fresh Raspberry Bread Pudding (page 437), and Chocolate Bread Pudding (page 438).

As with Hensperger’s bread machine cookbook, this is one I can highly recommend.

*NOTE: Clicking on the photos will enlarge them.

 

Angle of Repose – Book Review

angleofrepose.jpg What interests me in all these papers is not Susan Burling Ward the novelist and illustrator, and not Oliver Ward the engineer, and not the West they spend their lives in. What really interests me is how two such unlike particles clung together, and under what strains, rolling downhill into their future until they reached the angle of repose where I knew them. That’s where the interest is. That’s where the meaning will be if I find any. -From Angle of Repose, page 199-

Lyman Ward, a retired history professor and writer, returns to his grandparent’s home in Grass Valley, California – wheelchair bound and facing a progressive, crippling bone disease. His intent is to research his grandmother’s life through the news clippings and letters of her past. To write her story, Ward must fill in gaps, imagine conversations, and uncover the truths which lie hidden in Susan Burling Ward’s history. During this one hot, dry summer in a quest to know his grandmother,  he will discover the meaning beneath the shadows of his own life.

Wallace Stegner penned Angle of Repose in 1971 for which he won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize.  The novel – said to be his masterpiece – connects two points in American history…that of the late nineteenth century West with that of the turbulent, sometimes self-indulgent Vietnam era.  Stegner creates complex and intriguing characters. Susan Burling (based on the historical figure of Mary Hallock Foote – a nineteenth century writer and illustrator) becomes an unlikely pioneer when she marries the quiet and ambitious dreamer Oliver Ward. Their adventures in mining camps and the vast wilderness of Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, and California create a backdrop of unbelievable beauty and isolation from which their lives unfold.

She guided her horse through willows and alders and runted birches, leaned and weaved until the brush ended and she broke into the open. She was at the edge of a meadow miles long, not a tree in it except for the wriggling line that marked the course of the Lake Fork. Stirrup-high grass flowed and flawed in the wind, and its motion revealed and hid and revealed again streaks and splashes of flowers-rust of paintbrush, blue of pentstemon, yellow of buttercups, scarlet of gilia, blue-tinged white of columbines. All around, rimming the valley, bare peaks patched with snow looked down from above the scalloped curve of timberline. -From Angle of Repose, page 237-

Angle of Repose is not simply an historical novel. It explores the idea of identity and how the past often intersects the present. When Lyman Ward explores his grandmother’s story, he  is really seeking to find understanding in his own life.

Fooling around in the papers my grandparents, especially my grandmother, left behind, I get glimpses of lives close to mine, related to mine in ways I recognize but don’t completely comprehend. – From Angle of Repose, page 5-

Stegner’s prose is alluring, filled with gorgeous descriptions which  engage the reader’s senses. His characters are bigger than life, but carry real flaws which allow the reader to identify with them; to nod in understanding; to empathize with their torments and cheer for their successes. I can understand why Angle of Repose is lauded, why it captured the Pulitzer and why readers are quick to recommend it. I found myself completely immersed in the lives of Susan, Oliver and Lyman Ward and I was sad to turn the last page of this sprawling and satisfying novel.

Highly recommended; a must read; rated 5/5.