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The Big Rock Candy Mountain: 10/31/10

cover art

When I was reading Wolf Willow by Wallace Stegner for the 2009-10 Canada reads challenge, someone on Twitter recommended with gushing enthusiasm The Big Rock Candy Mountain also by Stegner. Since I've so far had very good luck with Stegner's books and since I love the song from 1928 that inspired the title of this roman clef, I immediately put the book on hold.

The Big Rock Candy Mountain is a big, dense, complicated book. The version I read further exacerbated things by using a tiny typeface. Since it was an old copy and the paper had yellowed, it was really hard to read both from a physical and mental standpoint.

The book has ten parts, each one a different scheme for Bo Mason or someone else in his family to try. It's a different scheme, a different location and a different era. Stylistically the book reminds me of Ulysses and I probably should have treated it the same way by reading a single section a week instead of powering through the entire book in a month.

Thematically though, the book reminds me of the two Polly Horvath books I've read: My One Hundred Adventures and Northward to the Moon (review coming). Both are about families trying to make a go at things by unconventional means. Both also share plots that dance across border between the United States and Canada being novels representative of both countries.

I ended up giving the book a two out of five stars on Goodreads. I was going through a rough patch, trying to find a job in the middle of the worst economy we've had since the Great Depression. Reading a book about a family struggling through poverty wasn't the best thing for my own emotional state of being. The tiny typeface, yellowed pages and numerous pages didn't help matters either.

My advice: take the book slowly.

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Monday, November, 1, 2010 at 12:19:25

Kris Rudin

Hmm. I didn't find this book that dense or complicated. I found it very readable, if somewhat depressing. Don't remember if I rated it on GoodReads, but I'd give it at least 3 if not 4 stars.

Comment #2: Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 11:25:21


A different copy with a different typeface may have been completely different. This copy was very old, faded and printed on thin paper that was very difficult to turn. The seer physical difficulty in reading the book combined with a time crunch made for a less than ideal reading experience.

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