Born into a third generation of Montana homesteaders, Judy Blunt learned early how to "rope and ride and jockey a John Deere," but also to "bake bread and can vegetables and reserve my opinion when the men were talking." The lessons carried her through thirty-six-hour blizzards, devastating prairie fires and a period of extreme isolation that once threatened the life of her infant daughter. But though she strengthened her survival skills in what was--and is--essentially a man's world, Blunt's story is ultimately that of a woman who must redefine herself in order to stay in the place she loves.
Breaking Clean is at once informed by the myths of the West and powerful enough to break them down. Against formidable odds, Blunt has found a voice original enough to be called classic.
The San Francisco Chronicle - Miriam Wolf
[Judy Blunt] has turned the memories of her childhood and young adulthood into a beautifully written memoir that is a meditation on how land and her life will always be intertwined .
National Geographic Adventure
[Blunt] writes without remorse, without flinching, striking matches off the scuffed soles of her feelings. When a writer can do that–make it real and make it matter–the world comes almost painfully alive.
Blunt's writing offers the flip side of the West–a land of blinding blizzards, uncontrolled fires, loveless marriages and rampant sexism. . . . There is little about it that doesn't ring completely true.
The Washington Post - Bill McKibben
Staunch and unblinking. . . . If there is a trace of sentimentality [in Breaking Clean] I couldn't find it, which is why this book is such a valuable addition to the literature of place and the literature of passage.
Los Angeles Times
In Breaking Clean, Blunt strikes a delightfully tense, unsteady balance and . . . like an accomplished bucking bronco rider . . . masterfully maintains it throughout a wild-ride of a memoir.
Time Out New York
Riveting . . . In its precise, arresting descriptions of a working farm and its careful re-creation of how Blunt ultimately came to break free, this masterful debut is utterly strange, suspenseful and surprising.
[An] astonishing literary debut, a dramatic and heartbreaking memoir.
Hopefully, Blunt will keep honing her keen and poetic awareness, steely candor, and commanding storytelling skills and continue telling the true story of women in the West.
In this world without TV or books, with mail once a week at best, a good story rose to the surface of conversation like heavy cream. Blunt's own story is so rich and genuine, readers will clean their plates and ask for seconds.
No biographical sketch of Blunt can convey the depth of this literary achievement. Each of the 13 sections here stands on its own substantial, powerful segments of writing organized around some larger theme.
City slickers take heed here's the real lowdown on the ranching life–from a woman's perspective. Judy blunt's new memoir Breaking Clean debunks the romance surrounding the American West's most archetypal way of life.
Pete Fromm, author of Indian Creek Chronicles
With a voice so authentic she seems to have grown up out of the ground itself, Judy Blunt gives us the true West, swept clear of the long haze of myth. Breaking Clean is a stunner, an incredible story told by a writer of unbelievable skill.
Ivan Doig, author of This House of Sky
One's own life into words is perhaps the most daunting geography a writer ever faces. But swooping into moments of her own past as if by sorcery, Judy Blunt in these harrowing pages of life as a young ranch wife on the Montana Highline memorably comes to terms with an old and hard horizon.
William Kittredge, author of The Nature of Generosity
Judy Blunt lived in a beloved country among beloved people. She grew up knowing blizzards and good horses, working cattle all day and then getting dinner on the table, impassable roads to town and babies with raging fevers--a resolute country girl who became a ranch wife on the shortgrass plains of Montana. And she tells of leaving, the price of insisting on her right to fashion her own life. Breaking Clean is vivid and compelling, a classical American memoir.
James Crumley, author of The Last Good Kiss
A memoir with the fierce narrative force of an eastern Montana blizzard, rich in story and character, filled with the bone-chilling details of Blunt's childhood. She writes without bitterness, with an abiding love of the land and the work and her family and friends that she finally left behind, at great sacrifice, to begin to write. This is a magnificent achievement, a book for the ages. I've never read anything that compares with it.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by GAIL SADLER
Wow! I couldn't put it down, even when it hurt. It was more than a picture painted with words, it was gripping and real.
A memoir of culture and history of fathers and daughters, of two world wars
and the passionate rebellions of the sixties. It is also about the mythology of
place and the evolution of a sensibility: and about how literature can shape and
even anticipate a life.
Proulx's first work of nonfiction in more than twenty years, Bird Cloud is the story of designing and constructing her dream house. It is also an enthralling natural history and archaeology of the region, and a family history, going back to nineteenth-century Mississippi riverboat captains and Canadian settlers.
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