4.5 stars.My grandparents had to live their way out of one world and live into another, or into several others, making new out of old the way corals live their reef upward. I am on my grandparents' side. I believe in Time, as they did, and the life chronological rather than in the life existential. We live in time and through it, we build our huts in its ruins, or used to, and we cannot afford all these abandonings.
Angle of Repose is a remarkable book. In the story of a recently disabled historian moving back to the family homestead to write the tale of his famous illustrator/author grandmother and her family, Wallace Stegner manages to tackle a myriad of issues and themes. He does so in language that is at times breath-taking. Lyman Ward, alone with his task except for an aging couple long associated with the family who care for him and their twenty-something daughter who assists with his work, faces the changes his disability has wrought in his life and family, while exploring the challenges experienced by his grandmother as she dealt with the vicissitudes of his grandfather's mining engineer career in the 19th century western wilderness. Stegner's novel explores the culture wars of the 1970s in the conversations between Lyman and his assistant, the cultural divides of the 19th century in his Eastern upper class grandmother's attempts to reconcile her life living at the fringes of civilization in the West, and the family divides of both generations in their efforts to manage unanticipated hardship. The book is about America, about family life, about love, and loss, and loyalty. It is about human frailty, the capacity to endure, and the possibilities and impossibilities of forgiveness.