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Extended Audio Sample The Big Rock Candy Mountain Audiobook, by Wallace Stegner Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.88 out of 53.88 out of 53.88 out of 53.88 out of 53.88 out of 5 3.88 (24 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Wallace Stegner Narrator: Mark Bramhall Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2010 ISBN: 9781455196043
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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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “An irreplaceable classic.”

    Robert Stone

  • “Stegner has felt the spell of mountain and prairie, of drought, flood, and blizzard…A harrowing saga.”

    New York Times

  • “Stands out beautifully and unforgettably.”

    New Yorker

  • “The writing is achingly beautiful…A touching story that is narrated brilliantly by Mark Bramhall, who studied acting at Harvard, UC Berkeley, the American Conservatory Theater, and as a Fulbright scholar at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He has starred in many west-coast productions and has played featured roles in such television series as Alias, NYPD Blue, and The X-Files. Capturing the mid-western twangs of Minnesota and Utah, and reading with an understated emotion, this is a tour de force that will bring tears to the eyes of listeners.”

    SoundCommentary.com

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mom | 2/19/2014

    " Enjoyable but so long that I never did get through the final chapters. I will go back someday. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mandy | 2/15/2014

    " As far as I'm concerned you can forget Updike and Roth and Bellow and all those other "great" American novelists - Stegner is the one to read! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pat Dejong | 2/11/2014

    " Very good if you like sagas. Interesting because I live in salt lake city area and the end takes place in slc. A bit long would be my only critism. Excellent characters. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jefe | 2/4/2014

    " Decent. Well-written, but rather slow. Well developed characters. Reminds me of The Brothers K (which is possibly the best book ever written... aside from the first 100 pages) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Susan | 1/27/2014

    " I listened to this one and could barely do anything else for the week or so it took me. Now I am listening (re-reading) Angle of Repose, read by the same narrator. I gasped when I heard the voice he used for Bo Mason repeated for Oliver Ward. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ellen | 1/26/2014

    " Mostly because in interesting and not all too literally closely related ways, I feel like this is a story I could tell too, starting in 1981 instead back when Mr. Stegner wrote it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hannah | 1/21/2014

    " This book, like the family whose story it chronicled, had its ups and downs. It was very dense and took a while to read, but all in all it was a good book. The writing was fantastic and the story was depressing, which I like. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah Roden | 1/8/2014

    " I can't believe I enjoyed this book so much. Crossing to Safety is among my very favorite books of all time. This is a great American tale beautifully told. Now on to Angle of Repose. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bethany Gray | 12/31/2013

    " One of the most depressing books I've ever read. Still fantastic though. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sandra | 12/15/2013

    " Follows the life of the Mason family "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Micki | 10/8/2013

    " Found this book compeling yet so depressing. I know I could never deal with Bo the way Elsa does. I didn't know whether to admire her or think of her as a foolish woman of low self-esteem. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gaye | 9/17/2013

    " This is my third Wallace Stegner book that I have read. Another great Stegner book ! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joell | 5/13/2013

    " Read The Big Rock Candy Mountain and be blown away by Stegner. Then take a minute to realize that he wrote this book in his early 20's. Wow. A masterful author shows us that writing about that which is dearest to you makes for powerful reading. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Wendy | 12/10/2012

    " The most dismally depressing book I've ever read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Margery | 1/28/2012

    " 611 pages and "Bo" never learns. If -x- hadn't -x- he could have doubled or tripled his money! I got bored with the main character but gave four stars to the author's ability to relate ALL of Bo's life and how it affected his wife and two sons - and how they grew because of/or in spite of it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 kathryn | 11/29/2011

    " It isn't what I expected-but i generally enjoy long stories that traverse the years. It ended as i expected which was good but bad. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeff | 7/29/2011

    " A beautiful tragic epic story of an American family in the first half of the 20th century. Dysfunction is present throughout the entire book, but the innocent optimism in the beginning is more powerful, even in the darkest of times. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jennifer | 5/12/2011

    " Another all time favorites by one of the best authors! I love this long novel set in the west. It is epic and so great! You must read it! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Cheryal | 5/1/2011

    " Couldn't finish. The story is depressing with an abusive father and they just kept describing how to kill animals out on the farm.I was done saying to myself "it's got to get better". "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Laura | 4/28/2011

    " I adore Stegner. Read and own nearly everything by him. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robyn | 4/20/2011

    " not my favorite Stegner book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Katherine | 3/12/2011

    " This is the first Wallace Stegner I was able to read all the way through. It's a good vacation book because the pacing is pretty slow. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Betsy | 2/12/2011

    " Audiobook (Narrator: Mark Bramhall) Good narration. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carolyn | 1/10/2011

    " Stegner IMO is the most underrated of 20th century writers. He should have had the Nobel prize before Steinbeck or Faulkner.

    This is his fictionalized autobiography, a wrenching story of a truly terrible childhood. I will never forget some of the scenes from it. "

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About the Author
Author Wallace Stegner

Wallace Stegner (1909–1993) wrote many books of fiction and nonfiction, including Crossing to Safety and the National Book Award–winning The Spectator BirdAngle of Repose won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972. An American historian, novelist, short story writer, and environmentalist, Stegner was often called the “dean of Western writers” and has left a lasting legacy in the literary community.

About the Narrator

Mark Bramhall has won eighteen AudioFile Earphones Awards and has twice been a finalist for the Audiobook Publishers Association’s prestigious Audie Award for best narration. He has been named by Publishers Weekly and AudioFile magazine among their “Best Voices of the Year” in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. He is also an award-winning actor whose acting credits include off-Broadway, regional, and many Los Angeles venues as well as television, animation, and feature films. He has taught and directed at the American Academy of Dramatic Art.