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Breaking Clean Paperback – January 7, 2003
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“Breathtaking. . . . Blunt's writing is visceral, yet never without humor and a raw, fierce honesty.” –The Chicago Tribune
“[An] astonishing literary debut, a dramatic and heartbreaking memoir . . . honed from difficult circumstances and crackling with energy long pent up . . . A fascinating, ferocious coming of age.” –Elle
“Unflinching. . . . A sense of mourning underlies [Blunt's] account, and she honors the land that she still loves by making us intimate with its smallest details.” –The New Yorker
“A beautifully written memoir that is a meditation on how land and her life will always be intertwined . . . Blunt's life has furnished her with the kind of strength most of us can only envy.” –The San Francisco Chronicle
“Staunch and unblinking, with sentences as strong and upright as well-tended fenceposts. A valuable addition to the literature of place and the literature of passage.” –The Washington Post
“Riveting . . . This masterful debut is utterly strange, suspenseful and surprising–a story whose threads connecting past and present are as transparent as cobwebs but as strong as barbed wire.” –Time Out New York
“In this assured and moving memoir, Blunt chronicles the wars-and-all realities of modern ranch life. . . . Remarkable.” –Outside
“Scarily good–so right on, so focused, so in-your-face that you have to take the book slowly to cushion the blow.” –National Geographic Adventure
From the Inside Flap
In this extraordinary literary debut third-generation homesteader Judy Blunt describes her hardscrabble life on the prairies of eastern Montana in prose as big and bold as the landscape.
On a ranch miles from nowhere, Judy Blunt grew up with cattle and snakes, outhouse and isolation, epic blizzards and devastating prairie fires. She also grew up with a set of rules and roles prescribed to her sex long before she was born, a chafing set of strictures she eventually had no choice but to flee, taking along three children and leaving behind a confused husband and the only life she'd ever known. Gritty, lyrical, unsentimental and wise, Breaking Clean is at once informed by the myths of the West and powerful enough to break them down.
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high school class.
Judy Blunt shares the gift of many Montana writers with a story line that uses only the necessary number of words to convey the thought.
I shared it with my wife who grew up in Washington state and she now knows a little bit more about me after about 45 years of marriage.
It was a great read and one of the best I have experienced.
This is not the myth of "The American West" - this is what the West is.
"Breaking Clean" attempts to extol the power of communal memory and shared experience by isolated women. Blunt discovers that despite geographic separation, women's experiences "translate into the same feelings." Her own life's history encourages her to conclude that "what mattered most was the story, the truth of what we tell ourselves" and eventually pass down to subsequent generations of women. The author never loses sight that while she lovingly describes the desolate beauty of a Montana praire and gracefully acknowledges its impact on the development of a unique personality, she does not permit geography to exert a deterministic power over her own self defintion. In this sense, Blunt, from an early age, has declared war on restrictions which bound her from full development.
Nowhere is this more vividly described that her useless battle with her own physical maturation. Outraged over her bodily changes occurring during puberty, Blunt tries to lance her own breast buds as a protest against anatomy's restrictions and social proscriptions due her lot as a woman. She resolves to battle sexist barriers with a burning desire to become an equal among rancheers. In an atmosphere where hard work and unsentimental vision are moral imperatives, where, as her grandfather proclaims, "This is no country for fools," Blunt develops a premature understanding of women's subordinate place. She winces at the scorn attached to the phrase: "women's work" and recoils at the idea that her mother is not accorded equal status despite her prowess inside and outside the home.
This rage against silent powerlessness follows Blunt as she undergoes her own personal transformation. With descriptive language that borders on the lyrical and narrative detail that spares no-one, Blunt chronicles her life on a family ranch, the emerging independence she relishes as a high-school student living away from home, and her eventual entrapment in a sterile, repressive marriage. Her anger never degenerates into self pity, her courage never wanders into hubris.
Though criticized for the inclusion of an event later discounted and repudiated, "Breaking Clean" is a vital and important memoir. Absolutely American in its affirmation of rugged individualism, uncompromising in its advocacy of equality and proudly praising the soaring, mysterious attraction of the Montana praire, this memoir will elicit strong reader response.
Even though it is really none of my business, I really wished the author had gone more into how she made the break from the life she was living, what gave her the courage, and I also want to know how her life is now. Again, maybe it is not my business, but I wasn't ready to let her go when the book ended.
I think any "city" person, interested in a life far removed from their own, would enjoy this book, and anyone else interested in book that you can wrap around you with writing that is poetic and eloquent, will also enjoy this book. Don't miss this one!