Read The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing Up on The Big Dry by Joe Wilkins Online


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 lThe 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....

Title : The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing Up on The Big Dry
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781582437941
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 240 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing Up on The Big Dry Reviews

  • Chris
    2019-01-01 17:13

    My father promised me a shotgun for my 12th birthday, which was not at all unusual for a Montana kid. Certainly not back in 1966. That was the year my Dad and I logged the most flight time together in the Cessnas he sold for a living.We’d swoop low at the sight of antelope for a fun chase across the mesas. I was itching to bag a pronghorn – anything with antlers, actually. I wanted to mount a pair on the knotty pine walls of my bedroom. There I would hang our bamboo fly-fishing rods, canvass creels and the fluorescent pink caps we wore in the field so hunters wouldn’t mistake us for game.The Mountains and the Fathers rekindled sweet memories of my own father and I. The new book is a memoir by Joe Wilkins, a gifted writer 24 years my junior who grew up 85 miles north of my childhood home in Billings. This is the Big Dry, a drought-punished country in the vast plains of east central Montana. Wilkins nails the sense of this place dead-on with poet’s eyes that see the landscape as “one part grass and two parts sky” and musician’s ears for the “grass that cracks beneath your steps.” The snap shirts, feed store ball caps, Rainier beer cans, antelope breakfast steaks, Chinook winds and the opaque plastic sheets covering windows in the winter evoked the romance of the interior West that I cherished as a boy.However, unlike my short-lived Big Sky adventure (We moved to the Bay Area just as I turned 12, ruling out the shotgun), Wilkins’ nostalgia for the Big Dry is bittersweet. Writing in his early 30s, Wilkins reflects on his youth as a story of survival. His father died when he was 9, leaving his mother to raise him and two siblings on a 300-acre sheep and hay farm in a gritty dot of a community called Melstone. They survived on the whims of rainfall and a coal-fired furnace in a drafty house “cobbled together from the ruins of homesteader shacks.”“You couldn’t call it a living. It was a kind of ritualized dying,” Wilkins writes.More than a memoir, the book is an indictment of the ideology of rugged individualism so deeply rooted in the arid American West. The success-through-hard-work religion no doubt makes for rugged individuals. However, this book shows that it also turns individuals against their land and, ultimately, themselves.Wilkins’ portrays a dismal array of childhood peers, including an overgrown bully named Rooster. Several are abandoned or abused by their parents or relatives. By his mid-teens, Wilkins joins his lot in drinking hard, driving fast and doping on nicotine. But he stops short of throwing punches and smoking marijuana. He has boundaries because he has hope.That hope springs from his rancher grandfather who gifts him a vision for some better life beyond Melstone and from the stories told of his esteemed father whom Wilkins has subconsciously erased from memory. The author was also blessed with imagination, thanks to his college-educated mother, Olive, who gifts him a love for reading. This book brings to mind novelist Wallace Stegner’s stories of those like his father who fell victim to the rain-follows-the-plow myth. (The Big Rock Candy Mountain and Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs.)The Mountains and the Fathers is another poignant lesson in reconciling ourselves with our natural environment. Working the land in the Big Dry yields riches, but they are marginal and ephemeral.Blaming failure not on the elements but on the character of the participants is a recipe for self-destruction. Working the land harder through overgrazing and other brute force only brings impoverishment to the land and its people.“We need to remember how it really was and is out West, and we need to tell those true new stories,” Wilkins writes.The Mountains and the Fathers is one of “true new stories,” well told.

  • Valerie Ihsan
    2019-01-14 13:27

    The language. Oh the language. Swoon.

  • Judy
    2019-01-09 21:37

    Joe Wilkins writes in beautiful prose of his life in Eastern Montana. He tells a story in each chapter as if a certain subject Lake Water, Sky, Slow Breath or person his mother, Bruce Wheatry, Kelly Dempsey, each brought to his mind pictures and lessons learned. Wilkins writing is almost like reading poetry. It is descriptive, poignant, sometime sad and sometimes hilarious. Life on the Big Dry was certainly hard, but from all of it he gained a knowledge of self, family, those who treated him like family. This is a must read for all who seek to find something important in their own lives. Sometimes the smallest most mundane things are important. In the retelling of his life on the Big Dry, Joe Wilkins finds his father, finds himself. I rated this book with 5 stars because I came away changed by Mr. Wilkins' stories.

  • Kelsey
    2018-12-29 14:24

    I thought this was a sad book about growing up fatherless in a tough world of poverty, isolation and manual labor in Eastern Montana.I liked the lyrical writing. Many of the passages seemed dream like, or like a free-writing assignment. It read more like a collection of short stories than a memoir. It also seemed so sad and bleak. I wanted a little more hope, a little more sense of loving something or taking something away when the writer escaped the world.

  • Bruce Holbert
    2018-12-25 20:30

    Wilkins is a poet and each short chapter delivers the rhythms and song of the best writing. What is even more remarkable is that these chapter/prose poems subtly construct a remarkable narrative that gathers momentum and delivers both hope and tragedy in the same breath. Brilliant stuff.

  • Zane Hesting
    2018-12-25 20:31

    Book recommended to me by a classmate, and is mainly composed of short flashbacks. The human elements in this book are stirring, and, to me, the message delivered is in the same vein as Cather's classic, "O Pioneers," and many of Steinbeck's works. Easily one of the best books I've ever read. If you grew up in a place where it never rains and everyone tries to get out, most failing, then don't hesitate to read this book. This author is haunted by so many western elements it is almost unbearably relatable. This book left me crying, suddenly, about every thirty pages. I will check out this author's collections of poetry in the future. Wonderful!

  • Matthew Thompson
    2019-01-18 20:34

    Joe Wilkins grew up in a water-starved stretch of eastern Montana known as the Big Dry. With his new book, he returns to the unforgiving landscape of his youth in a series of wistful vignettes culled from vivid, often violent childhood memories. The Mountain and the Fathers is a wonderfully rendered portrait of starkly beautiful rural life and a haunting search for what it means to be a man in the American West. Wilkins is a poet; his eye for detail is clear and he writes with the narrative grace of high lonesome prairie wind.

  • Valerie
    2019-01-19 16:14

    One of the most beautiful books I've ever read. My heart!

  • David Gallianetti
    2019-01-06 18:23

    Beautifully written memories of parents, family and growing up in a poverty stricken place. Fast paced book that oftentimes reads like poetry. Looking forward to meeting the author in a few weeks!

  • Ryan
    2018-12-26 19:37

    This impressive memoir by Joe Wilkins is about his childhood in Melstone, Montana, which is a tiny ranching community on the dry eastern plains just north of Billings. I have a personal connection to this memoir. Wilkins is a professor at Linfield College where Eve and I went to school and my best friend here in Montana grew up not far from Melstone and has connections to some of the people mentioned in the book.When Wilkins was nine years old his father, admired and respected by the entire community, died of cancer. The book traces Wilkins’ life in the years following his dad’s passing and provides a profound look at the struggles of those experiencing rural poverty and the lack of opportunities to escape from it. Like most boys in his community, Wilkins grows up working on ranches, including his grandfather’s huge ranch before it was sold. But Wilkins is an intellectually minded person and he chafes at the narrow constraints of conservative rural America. He witnesses all the scourges of poverty such as alcohol abuse, violence and cruelty. He also comments on the unsustainability of farming and ranching in the western high desert. It is a narrative that reveals his struggles to find identity, to know something of his father, and to escape the clutches of this small community.The Mountain and The Fathers is a beautifully written memoir and it deserves a big national readership.

  • Susan Eubank
    2019-01-05 15:24

    "It is late July, haying season, and he is waiting for the sun to dry the dew from the field. He is happy just waiting, happy because in this dry country too much moisture is a fine problem to have, because a meadowlark is calling, because the air this morning is sweet and sharp with clover and sage.". 4.5 really stars are so crass...Here are the questions we discussed at the Reading the Western Landscape Book Club at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden.• Did Joe have a happy childhood?• How does he process his father’s death -- or not? • What was your favorite landscape interaction that Joe had?• Is the landscape an adversary?• Was the transition to the harrowing adolescence inevitable?• How does the fathering (or his search for fathering) affect his adult life?• Does his poetic language help the story; hinder; hide; sanitize? • Who was your favorite father figure?• How did the end fit with the rest of the story; or not?• What is the “mountain” of the title?• How did Joe's Catholicism influence his journey?

  • Susan
    2019-01-03 15:23

    Joe Wilkins begins his fine memoir, "What I remember without qualification is the dark." He is a young boy being pulled from sleep on the night of his father's death. Over and over again he recounts, "What I remember" spooling out the details of a night that haunts him still. "We leave and never leave. We grow up and never grow up. We grieve and grieve and grieve." Wide open and desolate, Montana's Big Dry is a place of hard times and hard luck. Wilkins and his family have seen plenty of both. The Mountains and Fathers is a powerful coming of age story; it is also beautifully written. A poet first, Wilkins cadence and imagery are what make this such a fine read.

  • Karen
    2018-12-25 14:37

    Joe Wilkins lost his father at a young age, and his memoir details this emotional loss in the prologue of his book. However, this memoir is not written in traditional linear structure in order of chronological events. Instead, The Mountain and the Fathers is a collection of essays about the author’s relationships with both the men in his life and the harsh landscape that makes up his world. Set in the backdrop of the “Big Dry” of Eastern Montana, Wilkins book has been compared to the works of Norman Maclean and Jim Harrison.

  • Morgan Jones
    2018-12-20 16:29

    For those of us who grew up without a father, Joe captures some repeating themes we tend to have : Doubts about our male identity, seeing and rejecting father figures in the men we meet, Trying to understand who are own father was, and whether we're like him. As if by knowing him we could finally come to know ourselves.This is also an intimate slice of life, coming of age, in a rural harsh clime.Highly recommended.

  • Jan
    2019-01-10 18:17

    One doesn't have to be familiar with Montana or the Big Dry to be deeply touched by this book. Wilkins writes of his childhood and the loss of his father in a way that will resonate with anyone who has experienced struggles or loss. His account of growing up in rural Montana in the 70's and 80's echoes my experience growing up in Montana in the 50's and 60's. In rural Montana, change comes slowly. I was deeply moved by the simple beauty of Wilkins writing.

  • Johanna
    2018-12-20 14:21

    The mountain and the fathers is a stirring account of the author's experiences growing up on "the big dry". Powerfully emotional and spellbindingly poetic, Joe Wilkins takes us through the joys of a boyhood spent hunting and fishing in the Montana wilderness, the struggles and hard labor of farm life, poverty, and the tragic loss of his father. An exceptionally good book!I have received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

  • Wyna
    2019-01-13 13:41

    I am certainly conflicted about this book. I don't like that people that read this will take away from this book that small town Montanans are poor uneducated sorry lot! Not the case. There are not a lot of opportunities for young people in these areas if there is not a ranch in their family. That being said, I did enjoy reading this book.

  • Cindy
    2018-12-20 15:16

    This beautifully written collection of memories took my breath away.Wilkins unique voice is reflected in each sentence-- sometimes sparse, sometimes elegant but always meaningful. A must read for sons, for fathers and for the women who love them.

  • Jacki Thomas
    2019-01-10 13:30

    Why is it that the best book I read in 2015 slipped beneath the wire and crossed into 2016? I don't know, but I wish it could last forever. Stunning. Language, feeling, it's all here. Do not miss this gem.

  • Martin
    2018-12-26 15:42

    Read advanced reader's copy. Literary narrative about growing up in Eastern Montana. A brilliant blend of personalities, family saga, history, geography, and social commentary. If you liked Dubus’s Townie, you will like this.

  • Leif Wickland
    2018-12-25 17:34

    This is a very moving account of growing up in a hard place. I grew up just down the road from Joe and graduated high school in the same year. This story sounded very familiar.

  • Trisha Carlson
    2019-01-13 16:38

    Interesting memoir of growing up in central Montana; taught me about the culture of small ranch/farm towns in the area.

  • Chelsea
    2018-12-21 14:31

    Was very informative on a subject I didn't know much about. Enjoyed learning about what the author had to say.