This Pulitzer Prize winning novel seamlessly unites two stories.
1. Lyman Ward, a retired professor and historian, recently divorced and newly disabled, is currently living in his grandparents’ house, researching the story of their roles in settling the Wild West during the 1880s.
2. Oliver and Susan Burling Ward are two seemingly mismatched people whose marriage includes all the tragedy, disappointment, resiliency, and drama inherent in any long-term relationship.
Oliver works as a mining engineer continually struggling against failure and his own good nature. Susan is an East Coast artist with an elitist attitude toward the West that keeps her above, apart and distant from her own life.
In Lyman’s exploration we get to see way beyond what superficially might appear as the adventurous lives of Western settlers. We also hear about Lyman’s personal memories of his grandparents in their old age, and his own difficulties accepting both his disability and divorce.
The writing is beautifully descriptive, even brilliant. And Stegner’s characters jump off the page in their depth, realism and human complexity. Most of all he reminds us about some of the deep and profound truths about the sad fallibility of being human.