Like John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, The Big Rock Candy Mountain is in the tradition of literature depicting the unraveling of the American dream and is widely considered Wallace Stegner's masterpiece. The quest for success at the frontier and the expression of rugged individualism are depicted as ideals that are broken and that can deeply wound one's family when taken too far.
On the Plains and mountains of the North American West, the Mason family--Bo, his wife Elsa, and their two boys--live a life of transience, poverty, and despair as they drift from town to town, state to state. This is the harrowing tale of a father with a violent streak, one who makes various attempts to claim his fortune in the hotel business, in farming, and in bootlegging whiskey during the Prohibition. It is told from the the perspective of Bo, of the son Bruce, and in the third person as it spans a time frame of over 30 years. Set during the harsh economic climate of the early 20th century, this harrowing saga is autobiographical of the author's childhood and details the abuses of Bo toward his family, as well as the instability of the Mason's family unit.
Wallace Stegner was a conservationist, and educator, and the author of many books of fiction and non-fiction, including Crossing to Safety, The Spectator Bird (National Book Award 1977), and Angle of Repose (Pulitzer Prize 1972). Much of his work focuses on the excesses of the ego, such as wastefulness of love and environmental resources, in pursuit of the American dream.
Bo Mason, his wife, and his two boys live a transient life of poverty and despair. Drifting from town to town and from state to state, the violent, ruthless Bo seeks his fortune in the hotel business, in new farmland, and, eventually, in illegal rum-running throughout the treacherous back roads of the American Northwest. Each peak of success takes him a little bit higher, and each valley sinks him lower than ever before—both financially and in his relationship with his family.
Based largely on his own childhood, Stegner has created a masterful, harrowing saga of a family trying to survive during the lean years of the early twentieth century. It is the conflict between the hardscrabble existence and Bo’s pursuit of the frontier myth and of the American Dream that gives the book such resonance and power. Download and start listening now!