All but the Waltz: A Memoir of Five Generations in the Life of a Montana Family

All but the Waltz: A Memoir of Five Generations in the Life of a Montana Family

by Mary Clearman Blew
     
 

In language reminiscent of the wild beauty of Big Sky Country, Mary Clearman Blew gives us a glimpse into the lives of her family as she traces their connection to Montana's natural and human landscape. Beginning with her great-grandparents' arrival in 1882 in Montana—still a territory then—Blew relates the stories that make up her life.

"As Ms. Blew

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Overview

In language reminiscent of the wild beauty of Big Sky Country, Mary Clearman Blew gives us a glimpse into the lives of her family as she traces their connection to Montana's natural and human landscape. Beginning with her great-grandparents' arrival in 1882 in Montana—still a territory then—Blew relates the stories that make up her life.

"As Ms. Blew pieces together her family's hundred-year history in central Montana, she writes with sadness, fierce pride, and an unforgettable clarity of their struggle to survive drought, disaster, and economic depression. . . . [I]n prose with a shining edge, she etches short, stunning vignettes of this bleak yet beautiful country."—The New York Times Book Review

"Subtle prose that transports to a magical place, dissolving the line between memory and the present. A superbly realized vision."—Kirkus

"Recurring, concatenated characters, places, and themes give these essays a novelistic unity. The collection thereby becomes simultaneously an autobiography within a family context, a family biography from the perspective of one of its members, and a chronicle of the West."—Booklist

"In these essays, family members' hopes and sorrows interweave. They all learned that the beautiful land is demanding. Blew's clear vision allows us, too, to glean this rich heritage."—Seattle Times

"All But the Waltz is true and heartening and beautiful, as fine in its way as Wolf Willow or Old Jules."—William Kittredge

"All But the Waltz is a clean, haunting portrait of a sometimes remarkable, sometimes ordinary family on the great plains of Montana. What is astonishing is how we come to know and care about them, each blessed one of them in the pages of this book. Mary Clearman Blew, in her powerful, moving language, in her deep dignified sensibility, has given us a treasure we will long hold close."—James Welch, author of The Indian Lawyer

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
These powerful portraits span five generations of Blew's family's struggles to survive on the desolate ranchlands of central Montana, beginning in 1882. A bleaker view of home on the range is hard to imagine. Most of the men seem hopeless romantics, tragically flawed, while the women, who appear trapped in a he-man world, persevere--often heroically. To fiction writer Blew ( Runaway ) women like her schoolteacher grandmother and ranch-wife mother are the family pillars; her father and grandfather remain perplexing, despite her efforts to understand them. Blew concludes with a stirring description of her own ambivalent connection to this rugged part of the world. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Blew continues in the excellent tradition of Lambing Out (Univ. of Missouri Pr., 1977) and Runaway (Confluence Pr., 1990), recipient of a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. This collection of 11 stories centers on life along the cut banks of the Judith River in the Great Plains of central Montana. The river, little more than an alkali creek, is the locus for four generations. These stories spin cycles of hardship, bitterness, and death. Most are in the first person, revealing a unique woman's perspective of ranching life and expectations. Blew's style reflects the oral tradition of the tale. Yet her accounts never lapse into sentimentality, though some are clearly painful to tell. Similar in scope to Ivan Doig's Ride with Me, Mariah Montana ( LJ 9/15/90) and English Creek ( LJ 10/1/84) or William Kittredge's We Are Not in This Together (Graywolf, 1984), this is a haunting account of life in the West. Highly recommended.-- Daniel Liestman, Seattle Pacific Univ.
Kirkus Reviews
In her first essay collection, Blew (a story collection, Runaway, 1990—not reviewed) joins the top echelon with 11 virtuoso pieces on life and death on the Montana Plains. Blew writes of growing up on a hard-scrabble ranch; her father had her on horseback working cattle at age seven. His dream was that his two girls would become his partners in the ranch, but Blew's mother laid down the law that they must go to school. After Blew went to college and didn't return, her father wouldn't speak to her for years. One day, he told his wife he was going to the mine for a load of coal and drove off in his pickup to die. He was found, heart stopped, head cradled in arm, on a ridge overlooking a bend in the Powder River. Elsewhere, Blew tells of her maiden aunt Imogene, who began teaching in one-room schoolhouses in 1927. The lone women teachers were expected to carry their own coal, start the schoolhouse stove in 30-degrees-below-zero winters and live in a one-room teacherage behind the school with only a kerosene lamp and a bucket of spring water. In their isolated posts, they were vulnerable to rape. When "the boys" came for her, she ran them off with a rifle. Blew also speaks of the M‚tis—buffalo-chasing descendants of French fur traders and Cree women; Hutterites—a Mennonite-like sect called "fur-bearing Christians" because of their beards; Japanese railroad workers—so scorned that, in a history for the 1988 centennial celebration of statehood, the 1888 census of donkeys was listed but any reference to the substantial 1888 population of Japanese omitted. Surrounding all are the vast, lonely plains: sagebrush and mirages and blue buttes. When Blew's great-aunt was born,cowboys rode for miles to see her, so starved were they for the sight of a baby. Subtle prose that transports to a magical place, dissolving the line between memory and the present. A superbly realized vision.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670831081
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
09/10/1991
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
20.00(w) x 20.00(h) x 20.00(d)

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