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Breaking Clean Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375701303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375701306
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Poet and essayist Blunt grew up on a Montana cattle ranch in the 1950s and 60s, where "indoor plumbing" meant a door on the privy and "running water" was a fast ranch wife with two buckets. A natural tomboy, happiest around animals, Blunt dreaded leaving childhood. The gender rules of ranch life were unyielding: women married and kept to their kitchens, and they didn't own property or make decisions about the ranch. When puberty came, she did her best to hide all evidence of her sex, wearing a big coat and even lancing her growing breasts, the way she'd drain a cow's abscessed jaw. After finishing high school in town she returned to the family ranch, only to find she had no place of value there. So she accepted the inevitable: marriage to a man from a neighboring ranch. For 12 years Blunt lived in self-denial sneaking cigarettes, creeping into the calving shed to do the work she knew better than any man and bearing three children who were all she could call her own when she finally decided to leave. While she doesn't shy away from writing about hard times, Blunt's attention to detail and dry humor make this debut emboldening rather than depressing (e.g., her observation that one-room schoolhouses weren't great, but they afforded unintentional exposure to lessons a few years in advance). Her writing inspires respect for rural life and its "intimacy born of isolation, rather than blood relation." 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. (Feb. 12)Forecast: With an eight-city author tour, an NPR appearance, advertising to the literary community and word of mouth about this fine writer, sales should be considerable. Blunt's treatment of parental discipline, sibling relationships and town vs. country ways will appeal to readers far beyond Big Sky country.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Blunt was raised on a ranch in Montana, miles from the nearest town, and attended a one-room school where she and her siblings made up the majority of the students. On the ranch, she learned how to handle the day-to-day work of farm life and to remain in a subservient role to men. Eventually, after marriage and children, she abandoned ranch life for college and began writing award-winning poetry. In this nonfiction debut, Blunt proves to be a skillful writer, using beautiful prose to describe how she learned to survive in what remains a man's world. Unfortunately, she does not discuss in enough detail how the ranch life shaped her and made her want to "break clean." Thus, though her narrative is enjoyable to read, it carries no social implications. Collections with material on farm life or women in nontraditional careers will want to consider this title. Otherwise, this is not a necessary purchase. Danna Bell-Russel, Library of Congress

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This is book was a delight to read.
Michelaneous by Michele
For men as well as women, there was (and is) always so much to do to maintain a ranch.
Robert Morris
In writing her book Breaking Clean, Blunt preserves a sense of the oral tradition.
John Roberts

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By K. Corn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When Judy Blunt was only 15 she entered the only world she would imagine for herself - that of a farm wife (as her mother and grandmother had done before her). The memoir she wrote after finally breaking free of this life is not sentimental and doesn't ask for pity from the reader. It was the only life she'd known and plenty of people lived this way in Montana, expecting a rough life and bearing up to the hardships that came their way.
But what Blunt does, as few writers can, is open her eyes and really look fully at the world, coming up with vivid, original descriptions of the animals, the land, the people around her. Those familiar with farm life may find their eyes reopened by Blunt's writing and those unfamiliar with it will simply love discovering this book.
But I warn you - it isn't an easy read. There are plenty of farm accidents, bitter weather and descriptions of a community filled with people who don't have time for softness. They're too busy trying to get through each day and simply survive. What is amazing is that one person, Blunt herself, not only survived but ended up being an amazing writer, bringing alive the world she lived in.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By John Roberts on March 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A Review of Breaking Clean
Often over the past couple decades, I have marveled at a country that can hold within its boundaries some of the greatest metropolitan areas and some of the most isolated rural communities that exist on the earth. Growing up in rural Montana, I had no concept of this isolation. Somehow I just thought that that was the way things were. And there may be more isolated areas in this country than the Northern Montana Hi-Line that Judy Blunt writes about in Breaking Clean, but I don?t think people live there.
There are several good reasons to read her book, including the fact that it is well written and has won accolades from a couple of the University of Montana?s literary big guns, William Kittredge and James Welch. This alone is no small task.When you finish reading Blunt?s story of her years in Northern Montana, there is no way you can fault her for her honesty. What she writes of was the way it was and is the way it is. Though technology has changed much in the last fifteen years or so, with satellite dishes, more and more ranch families moving to town, and the Internet in places you can?t drive to three months out of the year, you can still see the places, the roads, and the people she describes if you take the hundred-and-fifty mile scenic tour of South Phillips County. When Blunt writes about four-wheel-drive pickups plowing down gumbo roads, you can feel the mud sticking to your tires. And when she writes of the cohesiveness of the rural community in Phillips County, the ranchers driving out to the country road to see their neighbor safely on his way during an emergency trip to the hospital in Malta, you get a feel for the tradition that maintains that one of life?s greatest responsibility is to help your neighbor in the time of need.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
From a book review published in the Bozeman Chronicle by Todd Wilkinson
Growing up in the Midwest, surrounded by Scandinavian- immigrant -farmer elders,I absorbed homestead tales the way that most young children voraciously come to know their first language.
Grandpa's voyage to America from Sweden in the late 1800s; grandma's family's encounters with Indians. How they worked hard for little economic reward but freedom. How they walked four miles one way every day to a one-room country school.
While such stories are part of my own cultural identity, nothing to me conveys the probable reality-not the romance- of pioneer life more than O. E. Rolvaag's sodbuster classic "Giants In The Earth."
Let's not be overly sanguine, however, about our heritage. For as picturesque and nostalgic as the era might seem in hindsight, to be a prairie woman must have been, on most days, pure hell. Often forgotten in a history written largely by white men, of white men, if ever there was a group of underappreciated heroines, it is the ranchers' and farmers' wives.
Today, if you continue west from Rolvaag's literary provenance, eventually you arrive on the high arid plains of Phillips County, Montana near the Missouri Breaks-the setting for Judy Blunt's fine new memoir, "Breaking Clean."
Like "Giants In The Earth", "Breaking Clean" is brooding, psychologically heavy, and stark, a reflection of the rocky and treeless plains that forms this stretch of cattle country. A third-generation Montanan, Blunt' sees through the weathered eyes of a native. Hers is a modern saga focussed not on defending ranching culture as an extension of one's dream, but of quitting it to find a future.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Jena Ball on March 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
What strikes me about this book more than anything else is the bone deep, rock hard grit of it. The truth of what Blunt lived and managed to distill a sense of self from is told so starkly, so cleanly and without melodrama, that it is at once absolutely believable and fundamentally shocking.
Set in western Montana, where Blunt's parents and their ancestors have somehow managed to wrench a living out of a land that is both inordinately harsh and unforgiving, Breaking Clean tells of the birth and upbringing of a small child called Judy and her 4 siblings. The rules of her childhood home are many and inflexible. The rules are there for a reason - without them, people die. Punishment for breaking the rules is immediate, swift and harsh. There is no time to acknowledge or assuage the hurts of childhood, no tolerance for stepping out of line or wanting something other than what is expected of you. And so Judy and her siblings grow up cut off from some of the deeper, feeling parts of themselves, which in her case take more than 30 years to surface.
As hard as this book is to read at times, it is also worth every cringe, every slap in the face and tear you'll shed, because by the end you realize there is cause to celebrate. The struggle to survive has shaped Blunt into a writer with depth, courage and clarity. This book is a reminder that even the most painful experiences can be transformed by the power of words. Don't miss this book.
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