The Mountain and The Fathers explores the life of boys and men in the unforgiving, harsh world north of the Bull Mountains of eastern Montana in a drought afflicted area called the Big Dry, a land that chews up old and young alike. Joe Wilkins was born into this world, raised by a young mother and elderly grandfather following the untimely death of his father. That early loss stretches out across the Big Dry, and Wilkins uses his own story and those of the young boys and men growing up around him to examine the violence, confusion, and rural poverty found in this distinctly American landscape. Ultimately, these lives put forth a new examination of myth and manhood in the American west and cast a journalistic eye on how young men seek to transcend their surroundings in the search for a better life. Rather than dwell on grief or ruin, Wilkins’ memoir posits that it is our stories that sustain us, and The Mountain and The Fathers, much like the work of Norman MacClean or Jim Harrison, heralds the arrival of an instant literary classic.
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About the Author
Joe Wilkins lives now with his wife and two young children on the north Iowa prairie, where he teaches writing at Waldorf College. His poems, essays, and stories have appeared in The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, The Missouri Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, the Sun, Orion, and Slate. His work has won numerous awards and honors, and he is the winner of the Richard J. Margolis Award of Blue Mountain Center, which goes to a promising new journalist or essayist whose work combines warmth, humor, wisdom, and concern with social justice.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing Up on The Big Dry based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
I've never been to the Big Dry in Montana, but Wilkins does a great job of evoking it--a hard land, and a challenging place for kids who haven't yet hardened. Wilkins is at his best when he explores divides--between generations, between poor and poorer, between the "soft" world of school/education (not to mention poetry) and the rugged and gritty landscape. And he's at his best a lot. The language here is infused with a kind of beautiful melancholy. This isn't just another memoir of the West, however--that's been done before. What most impresses me is Wilkins' ability to pull the reader back into childhood, into the physical and emotional growing pains and pangs of coming of age. Parts of this book reminded me of those wonderful childhood scenes from Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life--by turns befuddled and amazed by the confounding world of adults, with the camera perpetually looking up (at fathers, mothers, grandfathers, brothers, those cagey friends who've tasted the apple--or at least boast that they have--before you even knew the apple was there). And hurtling, terrified, toward the future, or as Housman puts it, in what would serve as a fitting epigraph for this book, "I, a stranger and afraid/in a World I never made." Highly recommended.
This book tells the truth, unvarnished, swept raw by fierce prairie winds, and battered by hail storms. Joe Wilkins has laid his soul bare, but not barren - he has uncorked a pent-up emotional bottle to beat back the drought, to bring some clarity to remembered pieces of his unique upbringing. As a native Montanan, I visited the Jersey Lily many years ago, and it has so much more meaning to me now that I've read this remarkable memoir. My Montana, though truth for me, is so different from Joe Wilkins' experience; but I suppose that's the terrific beauty of our native state - it can encompass all these truths, all the mothers and fathers and grandfathers, the mythic stoicism of the self-reliant farmer and rancher, the homesteaders of our past and present. I will always love Montana, and more so, somehow, after reading this brilliant book. Thank you.
The Mountains and the Fathers is much like the landscape in which it takes place. Like Montana's Big Dry region, this book is big and wide and encompasses a world from horizon to horizon. And that view includes images of a dry and barren landscape, coming of age in a place that doesn't feel your own, the sadness of losing a father, the strength of community, and the harshness of surviving in a place that breaks even the strongest. Not only does Joe Wilkins bring to life Melstone, Montana and its hardened people, but he does it in a lyrical and poetic way. We don't just read of these people and this place. We feel it in the songs he sings with his words. This books feels as much a collection of poems (like his collection "Killing the Murnion Dogs") as it does a memoir. And that is high praise. This is a book to read on a mountainside. A book to read on a front porch. A book to read while driving across the great belly of America. A book to read to your lover. For comparisons, this book sings like James Galvin's "The Meadow." And it looks at ranching similar to Ivan Doig's This Earth House of Sky" or Judy Blunt's "Breaking Clean." Joe has the honesty of Mary Clearman Blew and the lyricalness of Kim Barnes. And his essays end with a punch just like a James Wright poem. Buy this book. You'll love it. You will.
Didn't hold my interest - Dry - couldn't get past page 25.