“I started to establish the present, and the present moved on. What I established is already buried under layers of tape. Before I can say I am, I was.”
Wallace Stegner’s crippled main character Lyman Ward begins speaking his family history into an old recorder, the contents of which will be put on paper by a typist. But what he discovers in researching and telling the story of his grandparent’s moving west is an uncomfortable reflection of his own existence.
Stegner seems irrepressibly drawn to write about the couple where the husband is strong and quiet and servile in his love for his wife, and the wife is strong and spirited and will not be denied. “Angle of Repose” does not depart from this, and the love between Lyman’s grandparents is stunning at times, and uncomfortable at others.
Somehow Stegner manages to tell the story of four generations, their interweaving, and their diversion. This epic novel captures what it was like to move west in the late 1800s, what it was like to have a family then, to leave your roots and, in a more intense way than we can ever do in the 21st century, start again.
And yet this is the where the trouble lies – the constant moving on is inevitable, no matter what generation we are in.
“We live in time and through it, we build our huts in its ruins, or used to, and we cannot afford these abandonings,” Stegner writes.
If you love to read, you need to get“Angle of Repose” by Wallace Stegner on your bedside table stack.