All the Little Live Things – by Wallace Stegner

Perhaps it is a sign of my time that I can relate to main characters who are older men. What a surprise. Still, it is interesting that I can slip into the mind of Joe, the main character, and watch life side-by-side with him and understand that perspective. This book provided that opportunity.

Fortunately, I do not have to share the loss of an only son with the main character, but I can fully appreciate his feelings about the disconnect between he and his son, more through experience with my own father than with my own son.

Written in the 1960s, the book has a character, Jim, who exemplifies the free love, hippy drop-out. At that time, I was the same age as Jim, though not anywhere close to being any kind of hippy. While I could recognize that character as someone I might have known in that time, I could more easily understand Joe’s feelings towards to Jim; a relationship that was part envy and part irritation.

But the focus of the book was Joe’s relationship with Marian, a recently arrived neighbor. Joe plays the curmudgeon while Marian is his foil, loving and tolerating pretty much everything, willing to live and let live. While this could lead to conflict, Joe’s attraction to Marian creates opportunity for dialogue rather than conflict. Another thing I can understand now, too, is that his appreciation of Marian is not a sexual thing, but more familial and protective, with Marian being almost a daughter figure.

I accepted what happened in the book as a natural unfolding of events, of what had to be. I understood it. I would rather have had it end in a different manner, but I have found that in real life, we don’t get to choose our endings. They choose us. So it was with this book.

Finished 12/15/18