Recapitulation

Written by: Wallace Stegner

Recapitulation Book Cover
The moving sequel to the bestselling Big Rock Candy Mountain.Bruce Mason returns to Salt Lake City not for his aunt's funeral, but to encounter after forty-five years the place he fled in bitterness. A successful statesman and diplomat, Mason had buried his awkward and lonely childhood, sealed himself off from the thrills and torments of adolescence to become a figure who The moving sequel to the bestselling Big Rock Candy Mountain.Bruce Mason returns to Salt Lake City not for his aunt's funeral, but to encounter after forty-five years the place he fled in bitterness. A successful statesman and diplomat, Mason had buried his awkward and lonely childhood, sealed himself off from the thrills and torments of adolescence to become a figure who commanded international respect.

But the realities of the present recede in the face of the ghosts of his past. As he makes the perfunctory arrangements for the funeral, we enter with him on an intensely personal and painful inner pilgrimage: we meet the father who darkened his childhood, the mother whose support was both redeeming and embarrassing, the friend who drew him into the respectable world of which he so craved to be a part, and the woman he nearly married. In this profoundly moving book Stegner has drawn an intimate portrait of a man understanding how his life has been shaped by experiences seemingly remote and inconsequential.
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Recapitulation Reviews

Allyson
Just a gorgeous end to “The Big Rock Candy Mountain.”
Mike Finn
This is such a remarkable book. So evocative of an earlier life and not a word wasted in its telling.
Avidreader
I had thought I had read this book, but as I read it recently, none of the details were familiar so I'm pretty sure I never read it. I did read the short story The Blue Winged Teal from his short stories collection so I had remembered that part, but nothing else was familiar. 45 years later is a long time to return to your youth. Something must have haunted him, he felt obligated to face it, and it took him that long to make that choice. The sharp edges of anger and resentment had finally become I had thought I had read this book, but as I read it recently, none of the details were familiar so I'm pretty sure I never read it. I did read the short story The Blue Winged Teal from his short stories collection so I had remembered that part, but nothing else was familiar. 45 years later is a long time to return to your youth. Something must have haunted him, he felt obligated to face it, and it took him that long to make that choice. The sharp edges of anger and resentment had finally become blunted enough that he could let go. His final decision was the right one as I believe it brought him peace within. I was surprised that he had no desire to reconnect with his college friend, Joe Mulder as he was the person (as well as Joe's family) who provided Bruce the stepping stone to a "normal" life, a life he could share with others and not feel ashamed of. But for Joe, and Bruce possibly would have remained a nobody. Joe introducing him to tennis (although Bruce's mother pointed the way) allowed his self-esteem to develop during a critical time in his life as he was losing everything: his brother, his mother, his father, his girl and his home. At the very least, I think he owed it to Joe (since Joe contacted him when Bruce arrived back in town for his aunt's funeral) to see him. But maybe Bruce didn't need contact with anyone who remembered him from back then as he had always "blacked out" any events/tasks on his agenda. He partook of events and then "let go." Maybe that is how he moved through life, with no real continuity. Could we have expected more given how he grew up? Reading this book has intrigued me even more about the life of Wallace Stegner. I only learned of him a few months before he died in 1993 in the auto accident.
A Shooting Star :: To Say Nothing of the Dog :: A Tramp Abroad :: Pericles/Cymbeline/The Two Noble Kinsmen :: El ladrón de tumbas
Gina
This book captured perfectly for me both the profound embarrasment I feel about many memories I have of growing up, but also the fixation I have on them. Many of my most significant memories I feel I could not relate to someone else without sounding ridiculous, because I was. That a master storyteller like Stegner also could not reinforces this belief. This was especially the case in his relationship with Nola. I felt a deep sense of embarassment throughout. Perhaps it was knowing there were man This book captured perfectly for me both the profound embarrasment I feel about many memories I have of growing up, but also the fixation I have on them. Many of my most significant memories I feel I could not relate to someone else without sounding ridiculous, because I was. That a master storyteller like Stegner also could not reinforces this belief. This was especially the case in his relationship with Nola. I felt a deep sense of embarassment throughout. Perhaps it was knowing there were many autobiographical elements in the book that made it feel just too personal. The falseness inherent in a relationship when it progresses faster than the maturity and commitment of the individuals is just painful to witness from the outside. Perhaps it was the honesty with which he faced his shortcomings and failings in the relationship that made it so uncomfortable for me. It seems that the magic of a first love, when spoiled by immaturity, cannot be regained in the telling of the story.

This book will mean so, so much more to anyone who has lived in and loves Salt Lake City.

It was a sad book in the sense that a mature, successful man has so many memories he has still not worked through. It seemed a final indictment of his father that in all his adult life Bruce never found lasting, loving connections with other people. Even in his maturity he neglects the truest friend it seems he ever had, and runs off to hide behind his work. It is a small comfort to me that it seems Stegner himself was not crippled in the same way in his life.
Dianne Oliver
Stegner. hmm,hmm,hmm. You know how to dig in deep. Here are a few random quotes that I found haunting. I have many more, but it will give you the gist of the meat at his table.

He had not come back to, consciously, look up the past. Yet if you want to hunt the yeti, you went where he lived.

...he is not yet used to the strangeness of the once-familiar.

The quintessentially deculturated American, born artless and without history into a world of opportunity, Bruce must acquire, in a single lifetime Stegner. hmm,hmm,hmm. You know how to dig in deep. Here are a few random quotes that I found haunting. I have many more, but it will give you the gist of the meat at his table.

He had not come back to, consciously, look up the past. Yet if you want to hunt the yeti, you went where he lived.

...he is not yet used to the strangeness of the once-familiar.

The quintessentially deculturated American, born artless and without history into a world of opportunity, Bruce must acquire, in a single lifetime, the intellectual sophistication and the cultural confidence that luckier ones absorb through their pores from childhood, and unluckier ones never ever miss. He is a high jumper asked to jump from below ground level and without a run, and because he is innocent and has the temperament of an achiever he will half kill himself trying. (ah, the struggle to Catch Up. this puts words to that ever gnawing sense of inadequacy.)

But Bruce walked double. Inside him, moving with the same muscles and feeling with the same nerves and sweating through the same pores, went a thin brown youth, volatile, impulsive, never at rest, not so much a person as a possibility, or a bundle of possibilities. (don't we all carry within us our youthful selves. I love this imagery!)
Kathy
I'll admit my bias right at the start - if this had been written by another author, I'd probably give it a 2. But it's by Wallace Stegner, and that gives it one star before I even read the first page. He knew how to write descriptive prose without being trite, and he knew how to construct a solid sentence/paragraph. I also think that one has to be middle-aged or older to appreciate this book. The title is Recapitulation for a reason. If you've read Big Rock Candy Mountain it is interesting to se I'll admit my bias right at the start - if this had been written by another author, I'd probably give it a 2. But it's by Wallace Stegner, and that gives it one star before I even read the first page. He knew how to write descriptive prose without being trite, and he knew how to construct a solid sentence/paragraph. I also think that one has to be middle-aged or older to appreciate this book. The title is Recapitulation for a reason. If you've read Big Rock Candy Mountain it is interesting to see the characters from that book presented from a different viewpoint.

Ambassador Bruce Mason has gone home to Salt Lake City to bury an aunt. But what really happens is that he revisits his past as he drives the streets of Salt Lake City. Hence the book is about his memories of growing up, including his triumphs and his embarrassments, and about coming to terms with those same things. There are way too many pages describing his dreams while he's in the hotel room in Salt Lake City the night before the funeral - I skimmed/skipped those. I didn't think they added anything to the story. The final paragraph of the book will stay with me, though, as Bruce comes to terms with his ghosts.
Sharon Pribble
Not as intimate as "Big Rock Candy Mountain," this isn't really a sequel as some have described it. "Recapitulation" is a return to some of the events of the past which were described in "Big Rock Candy Mountain" and a recasting those events in different light. The different light is the view from adulthood. It seemed to me that the juice of life had been squeezed out and "Recapitulation" lacked the expectation and curiosity of the earlier book. Maybe it was the absence of the father, awful as h Not as intimate as "Big Rock Candy Mountain," this isn't really a sequel as some have described it. "Recapitulation" is a return to some of the events of the past which were described in "Big Rock Candy Mountain" and a recasting those events in different light. The different light is the view from adulthood. It seemed to me that the juice of life had been squeezed out and "Recapitulation" lacked the expectation and curiosity of the earlier book. Maybe it was the absence of the father, awful as he was, who gave the earlier book such color and excitement. Resignation is not necessarily the price of adulthood. It is an interesting book, but without the energy and thrill of its predecessor. Nevertheless, an excellent work. I can't imagine how "Recapitulation" would read if you didn't know the earlier book. I am sure it can stand alone, Stegner is such a marvelous writer, but it would be a completely different experience, and I daresay, not the one the writer intended. I hadn't really thought about this much, how writers write with an intention toward the reader, but I would seriously recommend that "Big Rock Candy Mountain" be read first.
Julie
As I watched a biography on Stegner, the commentator mentioned that this book was somewhat of an autobiography of Stegner’s life. I have wanted to read it and overall I enjoyed it and the glimpse into Stegner’s “life”. It is about a man who returns to his Salt Lake City home for the burial of his great aunt and only living relative. As he drives around the city he has flashbacks of his days as a teenager and young adult. He can’t seem to reconcile his current life with his past but is trying to As I watched a biography on Stegner, the commentator mentioned that this book was somewhat of an autobiography of Stegner’s life. I have wanted to read it and overall I enjoyed it and the glimpse into Stegner’s “life”. It is about a man who returns to his Salt Lake City home for the burial of his great aunt and only living relative. As he drives around the city he has flashbacks of his days as a teenager and young adult. He can’t seem to reconcile his current life with his past but is trying to make connections to what he has become. I liked the allusions to Salt Lake City and it felt familiar given his descriptions of the places and people he encountered. It is not a very long book but Stegner can be pretty intense at times. He is a wonderful writer but this is definitely not a beach read. I had a hard time getting into the story but it picked up quickly. I could maybe use some passages in my AP class because I think Stegner is an amazing writer. I would only suggest the book to Stegner fans. I think he is brilliant but his writing can be a bit daunting.
Brett
Really an interesting walk into the past - revisiting the Salt Lake City of his youth - continuation of the disaster he ran away from years earlier at the end of the Big Rock Candy trail...Stegner is such a great and precision story teller I literally have never been disappointed by any of his books. The kinda funny part about the book is the pseudo flapper scene that evolved during his youth with the college girls all trying to be so speakeasy and hip...in Salt Lake lol. Reminded me of SLC Punk Really an interesting walk into the past - revisiting the Salt Lake City of his youth - continuation of the disaster he ran away from years earlier at the end of the Big Rock Candy trail...Stegner is such a great and precision story teller I literally have never been disappointed by any of his books. The kinda funny part about the book is the pseudo flapper scene that evolved during his youth with the college girls all trying to be so speakeasy and hip...in Salt Lake lol. Reminded me of SLC Punk (movie) where there is like one punk rock kid in all of Salt Lake looking for a scene to hang out and his parents are clueless - but that's another story. No seriously - if you read Candy Mountain, get in here and finish it out. Though the ending actually could've been better.
Stephanie
Not as great as The Big Rock Candy Mountain, though it does fill in more about Bruce's life -- since the focus in the previous book is on the parents, the kids get a bit of short shrift -- well, more that I had less of a sense of how they got from one point to another in the time jumps between chapters. This book covers Bruce's teenage and young adult years in Salt Lake City from a perspective of 40 years later; he is also coming to terms with his parents and being the last of his line.
Adam
A sequel to the great "Big Rock Candy Mountain", the novel didn't grab me early on but about 80 pages in, this is a great book that can stan by its own and also brings more depth and perspective on BRCM. Another wonderful book by Stegner. Anyone interested in novels about confronting one's past later in life will enjoy this.
Carole
Well, much as I love and admire Wallace Stegner, I had a hard time getting into this one.

It seemed like the same story (his autobiography) told with different characters and different locations. Maybe I shouldn't have read 5 or 6 of them one after the other. There just wasn't anything new here. I may try it again a few years from now (assuming I'm still around), and see if my opinion changes.
Laura Thomas
Title says it. Same mistakes made over, with different people, 50 years later. I like Stegner a lot, and this takes place in SLC, which is cool, I just wanted it to end differently. This book makes me think, maybe we shouldn't think too much, over analyze, take more chances that may not make total sense.
Joanne
Stegner is a terrific writer! Interesting book about trying to make peace with your roots and childhood and those small events which change the course of our lives. Takes place in SLC so that was fun too - to read about what it used to be like.
Juneus
A well written story of my scrawny, insecure youth. Not a bit like my family but certainly a recording of my internal dialogue. A little painful to struggle through but well worth it. Stegner was a great writer. I was sorry when he died.
Liz Findlay
Love Wallace Stegnar. Loved Big Rock Candy Mountain and loved this sequel. Made me miss those beautiful mountains, spacious valley, and summer nights that was/is my Salt Lake City. You can smell the grass and feel the warm breeze of summer in the East Bench of Salt Lake as you turn each page.
Lisa
This is a sequel to Big Rock Candy Mountain. I didn't like this one as much as BRCM. I would give it 3.5 stars. For some reason, I found myself still thinking about this book days after I finished it.
Michael
I read this in one sitting, on a Friday afternoon. It was very good and had the depth of a Stegner retrospective on life. It may not work as well, if I read it over a number of days or weeks. This is the story of a famous man who returns to his childho
Rachel
This is my third book by Wallace Stegner. I love reading books that take place in cities that I'm connected to. Mr. Stegner's referencs to a Salt Lake strenghten my own connection, especially to the past.
Allison
While the story itself is not the fastest moving, I was taken in by the writing. From geological formations to family to youthful awkwardness, his descriptions are perfect. I would definitely read more by this author.
Jane
love this book. one of those books where it totally pulls you into its world. and the last 15 pages were killer, just wishing there were more pages to come. beautiful, thoughtful book. can't wait to read big rock candy mountain.
Robert Fleming
In my view, it is simply the best-ever depiction of what it was like to grow up non-Mormon in Utah. Forget that the young adulthood he writes about precedes my own experience by about four decades -- it's pitch perfect.
Rob Melich
An end of life story full of sadness and regret unlike many of Stegner's similar themed books. Not a favorite for me, but glad I read. The strength of the book reflects Stegner's view of SLC in the 30's and beyond before it became a "big city", well captured moments.
Carol
interesting story, though I found the hero a little difficult to like. I particularly didn't like the ending when he failed to phone his long-time friend, Joe. I kept inventing better endings in my mind.
Noel
I loved the images of Salt Lake City and the story of revisiting one's past.
Ernest
I normally love reading Stegner, but this was disappointing.
Beth
this isn't my favorite Stegner work, but I think it is a must read for anyone that has lived in Utah. It captures a time in Salt Lake City that is kind of lost in it's history.
Emily
Ok, this is the same book as Big Rock Candy Mountain (also on my list) but told from a totally different point of view. And also totally wonderful.
Kelli
Stegner at his finest! And it's based in SLC...my hometown!
Macavoy
I love Wallace Stegner as an author. This book was good but had some explicit parts that dropped it's rating for me.
Merry
Recapitulation was an interesting book. Its word pictures were unique and inventive. I did have trouble sustaining interest in the story. Perhaps too deep for me.
Dave Kerr
Great book by a great western writer. I read this book just after moving to Chicago from Utah. It was comforting to get lost in story where the geography and lifestyle were familiar.
Marvin
The first Stegner novel that had very little appeal to me.
Sally
Generally love this author, and one of the few books by him I haven't read. Not my favorite but he is always worth reading, in my opinion.
Natalie
A look at Salt Lake in the 1920's on. I love this book more each time I read it.
Kristen
First 100 pages were good, but unfortunately the ending didn't make finishing it worthwhile. Disappointing compared to other Stegner books.
Carolyn
Terrific summing up of his fictionalized autobiography.
Nanci
Not my favorite Stegner but definitely worth reading. Wonderful historical description of Salt Lake City ant the angst of youth/maturity.
Sara
Compelling, but definitely not Stegner's best.
Chelsea
Bruce Mason returns to Salt Lake City to bury his father's sister, his only remaining family. As he prepares for the funeral he revisits his youth through recollection and dreams.
Kathy
I am glad this wasn't my first Wallace Stegner book to read. But I am such a fan I enjoyed every minute of it. Rather dreary, but always excellent writing.
Kevin
An autobiographical novel based on Stegner's life in Salt Lake City. It was not my favorite Stegner novel, but still enjoyable.
Tom
You can't go back. This is a the story of a a career diplomat who tries to go back to his home town. Beautifully written. This is probably my favorite by Stegner.
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