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

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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.

In language reminiscent of the wild beauty of Big Sky Country, Blew gives readers a glimpse into the lives of her family members...

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Norman 2000 Softcover 240 pages. Softcover. Brand new book. MEMOIRS. 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. Mary Clearman Blew is Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Idaho, Moscow. She is the author of Bone Deep in Landscape, Balsamroot: A Memoir, Lambing Out And Other Stories (University of Oklahoma Press) and Sister Coyote: Montana Stories and is coeditor of Circle of Women: An Anthology of Contemporary Western Women's Writing. "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, Read more Show Less

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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.

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

Read More Show Less

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: 9780806133218
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2001
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Clearman Blew is Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Idaho, Moscow. She is the author of Bone Deep in Landscape, Balsamroot: A Memoir, Lambing Out And Other Stories (University of Oklahoma Press) and Sister Coyote: Montana Stories and is coeditor of Circle of Women: An Anthology of Contemporary Western Women's Writing.

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Table of Contents

The Sow in the River 1
Reading Abraham 13
Dirt Roads 39
Leaving Montana 57
Little Jake and the Old Ways 79
Auntie 101
Getting Married 121
Going to Fort Peck 137
The Unwanted Child 159
January 1922 179
All But the Waltz 203
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