The Jump-Off Creek

Sunday night, after Ted and Maya had gone to bed, I was considering watching a DVD, perhaps Out of Africa. But then I decided that I didn’t want to stay up that long (it’s a long movie, and it was already 9:00), and that I was enjoying my book, so I would read instead. I made the right choice. ๐Ÿ™‚

I read the concluding chapters to book three in the Winter Stacks Reading Challenge, The Jump-Off Creek, by Molly Gloss. This is a book by a local Portland author, which I picked up while we were in Oregon this summer. I read maybe a chapter of it then, and then got distracted by another book, or a movie, or whatever, and lost interest. It looked like it might become one of those books that you don’t immediately get sucked into, and then you give up on them in favor of another book. Sometimes, that is the right choice, because really, why spend good time on bad books when there are so many good books out there, but in this case, I’m glad that I committed to it in the challenge, because it got me to return and give it another try. The first chapter or two were kind of clunky to me, and I wasn’t sure…but when I got into the language, and started to feel more of a sympathy toward these characters, I started to really enjoy the novel. This, from Library Journal, via

Not a standard “Western,” but a novel of the West notable for its accurate portrayal of life on a homestead and for the quality of writing that will make readers linger. At the height of the Depression of 1895 Lydia Sanderson, freed by the death of her husband, travels to Oregon where she homesteads on a mountain, living in a wretched hovel on land not fit to grow even a vegetable garden. Her companions are two mules, two goats, and hard work. Lydia’s neighbors are few and far but bound together by a common struggle to survive. Their life is one of terse converse, kindness, and quick response to one another’s needs. A rare treat of a first novel. ~ Sister Avila, Acad. of Holy Angels, Minneapolis

The characters in this book are a prickly bunch…not warm by today’s standards, clearly. I think the author does a good job of conveying the emotions that are hidden under the surface of these quiet folks, most of whom are more comfortable in the harsh wilderness than in any city or even town. They consider their words carefully before speaking, and think long and hard before making any moves, at least most of the time. There are a few instances where a character acts without thinking, usually to disastrous results.

I really liked this book, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in reading a character study of the type of person that goes into homesteading, or ‘cowboying’, as she called it. Anyone interested in seeing what life on the frontier might be like, would definitely enjoy this book.

Next up: Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks.

4 thoughts on “The Jump-Off Creek

  1. Gloss seems to like stories about groups that separate from the larger society. And she seems to have the same problem (or just a writing style) that was her other book I attempted to read (i.e., a slow start).

    Glad that you enjoyed it, though! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hey I came over to check out the review from Overdue Books. Sounds great. I am not much of a western book reader but this sounds more like a book about the people of the west. I read something I think would be similar written about the Acadia area in Maine and really enjoyed it. Good luck with the challange I have two down and am half way through number three.

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