Angle of Repose

Wallace Stegner

Book cover

I have mixed feelings about this book. Early on, I liked it very much. The narrator, Lyman Ward, is an interesting character. He is an old man, which is already fairly unusual. He has an unabashedly crotchety character that reminded me a bit of the narrator of Lolita–taking pleasure in the role of unapologetic outsider, projecting a sense of superiority that also indicates some deep insecurities.

Most of the book consists of Ward’s narration of the events of the life of his grandmother, a reluctant pioneer (whom Stegner based on a real historical figure), including excerpts from her letters to a friend on the east coast (also based on the real thing). This story was interesting to me, and was a motivating factor in getting me to do some research on the history of the pioneer side of my own family, who migrated to Nebraska in the 1880s. The chapters sometimes return to the 1970s life of Lyman Ward, but too infrequently, I felt. I wanted to understand more of his life and his relationships, which are mostly only alluded to. I got the sense, fair or not, that Stegner is not as comfortable writing dialog in a modern setting.

[spoilers removed]

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars