"Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner's boyhood was spent on the beautiful and remote frontier of the Cypress Hills in southern Saskatchewan, where his family homesteaded from 1914 to 1920. In a recollection of his years there, Stegner applied childhood remembrances and adult reflection to the history of the region to create this wise and enduring portrait of a pioneer community existing on the verge of a modern world." -- Cover.
One insertion, a very valuable one in my opinion, is a cowboy story which could almost be a novelette. That has drama and tension, character building and pathos. It reveals the kind of men who staked their lives on hardship and usually lost in the end, as well as a glimpse of the sort of woman who supported them.
I would not read this again, unless it were the cowboy story in the middle, but I did enjoy the reading of it. I must admit, I began to tire of Whitemud, and I skimmed a bit at the end just to get out of the town, but then, I left a town very similar to it in my youth and have never wanted to return to live there. It is nice to visit now and then though, especially with someone who understands.
Throughout the book, I learned more about Stegner. It's interesting what shapes people and how they become who they are later in life after being influenced by people and experiences.
The book is written in 4 distinct sections, each of which appeared to be written at different times and covering different subjects around the same area. I like the third the best and found it easier to read and more riveting. Since this is a personal work, it's hard to get excited about the history of a place I know nothing about, so the second section was slow going for me. Still, I learned. The first and fourth sections were good but not as much as the third. The book would be fascinating for someone interested in the history of this area in both the US and Canada when it was still a frontier.
I suspect the book was satisfying to Stegner -- he got his history and seemed to enjoy the search and memories. The 4 rating is for content -- not that it isn't good for the right person, but it didn't hold my interest well in some sections. So unusual for a book by this author. Otherwise, the ratings aren't high enough for this author's writing.
This was the first Stenger that I have read although I have a few of his books on my TBR. He writes with strength and purpose and as a Westerner myself, I loved the pictures he painted with his words. Many people see the prairie as flat and colourless, but Stenger manages to see and describe both the layers and the colours of this unique landscape. His narrative on the particular smells of the bushes and plants had me pinching handfuls of various shrubs and grasses and experiencing these aromas for myself.
I found Wolf Willow an absorbing, informative and wonderful read. Looking at nature and history with the help of this author gave me new insight into this different landscape that appears to set a stamp on individuals who grow up in this type of habitat.