The Angle Of Repose - Wallace Stegner
Stegner is a big name at my alma mater (Darling was a part of the 08-09 Wallace Stegner Think Tank, writing a legislative proposal to redraw the boundaries of Canyonlands National Park). When brought up in discussion, I always think of Wallace Stegner, the environmentalist. That is just my experience. I spoke with my mother about this and she agrees that those who know him as a novelist are surprised by his environmental activism (although place - as a convention - really starts with him and his work) and vice versa. Although I know many titles of his work, this was my first indulgence in it. Any expectation I had for a Stegner novel was turned on its head. I loved it. Really loved it. (I suppose I really shouldn't be as surprised as I am, it did win the Pulitzer.) I delighted in the character development, the beautiful language, the landscape. I relished its high-literary style and lyricism, its poignant observations, and sympathetic and respectful tone. I found myself returning to chapters, paragraphs, sentences, words-- over and over again. I made plans to reread (the book as a whole, but also just the section itself) almost as quickly as I could digest the present paragraph. Susan Burling Ward is my favorite fictional heroine I have met in a long time, I would say certainly this year. A strong woman, a lady, an artist and writer--the unexpected life she finds herself living in the crude, undeveloped American West. She's simultaneously lovely, tragic, intelligent, traditional, and human. Most of all human. She is not without flaw, but, like everyone else you encounter and connect with you love her for it.
I think if I make it to 45, and I'm over halfway there, this will still have a fantastic chance of making it to the top 5 roundup* come December. And 45 is a big number to whittle down to 5, no? That's how much I recommend it to you, if anyone takes my recommendations :)
* As I looked at this post I realize that I had completely forgotten that I had made some small to-read lists. I have only read 2/9! Whoops.