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The Living: A Novel Hardcover – May 1, 1992


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 397 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins (May 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060168706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060168704
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #358,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Listening to Lawrence Luckinbill read Annie Dillard's historical novel The Living takes a little getting used to. The very first sentence reveals a pronounced and distracting lisp, but don't let that dissuade you from continuing. Luckinbill's voice also exhibits a simple honesty, a gruffness that is perfectly suited to the steely pioneer spirit of Dillard's story. Surprisingly quickly, the vocal idiosyncrasy fades away, leaving only the emotional resonance of Luckenbill's obviously heartfelt connection to this powerful tale.

Dillard's finely crafted prose and Luckinbill's sincere voice carry you back to the early days of American expansion, into the truly Wild West and the stone-hard life these settlers would be forced to endure. "She had cried out to God all day and maybe all night, too, that he would lend her strength to bear affliction and go on. She was not aware that underneath she prayed another prayer as if to a power above God, or at least to his better nature, that he was finished with the worst of it." Of course, God isn't finished, and neither are these brave souls. Dillard opens their world slowly, stretching the horizon generation by generation, tethering the fate of one small family to that of the struggling town that they are helping to build and, ultimately, to the inexorable rise of the emerging nation. (Running time: six hours, four cassettes) --George Laney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Pulitzer Prize-winner Dillard ( Pilgrim at Tinker Creek , HarperCollins, 1988) turns her hand to fiction with this historical novel of the American Northwest in the late 19th century. Focusing on the settlement at Whatcom on Bellingham Bay (near Puget Sound), Dillard offers a compelling portrait of frontier life. The novel has a large and richly varied cast of characters, from the engaging frontiersman Clare Fishburn and Eastern socialite-turned-pioneer Minta Honer to the disturbed and violent Beal Obenchain and kleptomaniac Pearl Sharp. The Living is unflinching in its delineations of pioneer life at its worst and best--racism and brutality on the one hand and optimism and charity in adversity on the other. Dillard's view of "the living" in its many senses is a fine novel that is an essential purchase for all fiction collections.
- Dean James, Houston Acad. of Medicine/Texas Medical Ctr. Lib.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Annie Dillard is the author of ten books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winner Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, as well as An American Childhood, The Living, and Mornings Like This. She is a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters and has received fellowship grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Born in 1945 in Pittsburgh, Dillard attended Hollins College in Virginia. After living for five years in the Pacific Northwest, she returned to the East Coast, where she lives with her family.

Customer Reviews

The book is dull.
Evan Loeffler
The power of fate and nature, and of love and courage are portrayed beautifully.
David
Great character development!
K. Simpson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By J Peter Nixon on July 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
This novel is about settling the Pacific Northwest in the same way that Moby Dick is about whaling. The richly drawn narrative provides a framework for Dillard's exploration of the mysteries of life, suffering and death. There is a philosophical and theological depth to this work that is rare in contemporary fiction.
This is not to say that Dillard sacrifices literary quality to make philosophical points. To the contrary, some of the sentences are simply breathtaking. One of my favorites occurs early in the novel, when Dillard is describing the forbidding topography of the Pacific Northwest from the perspective of one of the settlers:
"God might have created such a plunging shore as this before He thought of making people, and then when he thought of making people, he mercifully softened up the land in the palms of his hands wherever he expected them to live, which did not include here."
This novel can be difficult at times, but it is worth the effort and rewards the close reader.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a dreadful, exhausting book. But I've read it three times! Annie Dillard is an unflinching, straightforward writer who has a firm grasp on the strengths and frailties of human nature. She accurately captures the feel of NW Washington "high woods" and the people who settled the area. By the time you finish this novel you will not just feel like you know the characters, you'll feel like you're related to each one of them and have greived their passing. I highly recommend it to anyone who is from this area of the United States - you will recognize the landscape, the attitudes, and certainly the weather. A character states, after a looong spell of rain and overcast skies, "We live in a lidded pot."
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
Annie Dillard is one of the best writers today. Her prose is poetic and her poetry is perfection. The Living, a marvelous book about the trials and tribulations of pioneers, is gripping, descriptive, and wonderfully told. To read it, was to be transported. You felt the moss on the trees, you smelled the rich pines, you tasted the salt air. It's an achievement, in every sense of the word.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Rosa LaRosa on December 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read Annie Dillard's The Living through the library and am now buying a copy to send to my sister in Vancouver, B.C. When visiting there, we traveled the area discussed in the book, which has come alive for me now. The protaganist IS the Great Northwest, and as such, the trials, triumphs and tribulations of Ms. Dillard's 'main character' enthrall, delight and dismay - but never disappoint. Much as I have enjoyed her non-fiction, I look forward to more fiction from her pen.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
Grand in scope and finely detailed...this is just the kind of journey-driven writing that I like. Quirky but real, like the conditions of our lives. I missed the lack of dialogue, though, and feel like she walks a thin line between showing and telling. A bit too much telling for my taste, because I was a little distracted worn & out by the end of this journey.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 6, 1997
Format: Paperback
This is prose craftsmanship at its finest. Dillard's imagery shimmers; her sentences are watertight. She tells a vast story with prose that is poetic in its economy of language. When Dillar is at her best -- and she is often in this book -- her words ring like church bells
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By John D. Faucher on September 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Annie Dillard has one of the clearest, most attractive writing voices I have ever read. It's almost always an eye-opening joy to read her, just for the way she puts words and sentences together. This novel is no exception, although it's not her best work.
The plot here - about the settlement of the Pacific Northwest, and some characters in and around Bellingham, Washington - is fairly interesting, although not compelling.
After about 100 pages, I started to find the title ironic: I felt it should be called "The Dead and Dying." One gets a real taste of how difficult life was in the 19th century, when the frontier was still being opened.
But Dillard's style does not mesh well with the demands of a novel. She is far better at conveying her innermost thoughts; her memoirs and essays are what make her so good. If you have the choice, read those rather than this.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Cate Gonsalves on March 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have found this book to be incredibly insightful to the early Northwest. Although the characters are many, and we don't get an indepth study of them, I find that they are there to lend to the overall "feel" of the book. Life was bleak at best, and so are the characters. Life was a struggle, and so are the lives of the characters. My youngest sister and her husband live on Lopez Island and I am sending this book to them because I know they will be able to identify with the weather, the surrounding areas, the people, and the history. Hurrah for Annie Dillard!
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