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Comment: This book has already been loved by someone else. It MIGHT have some wear and tear on the edges, have some markings in it, or be an ex-library book. Over-all it's still a good book at a great price! (if it is supposed to contain a CD or access code, that may be missing)
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All the Little Live Things (Contemporary American Fiction) Paperback – December 1, 1991

4.5 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Retirees Joseph and Ruth Allston find their placid, rural California life disrupted by a hippie who builds a treehouse on their property and by a young married couple tragically affected by pregnancy and cancer. "Quite simply, a beautiful novel--strong, moving, wise, funny--as topical as today's newspaper," said PW.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Timely and timeless . . . Will hold any reader to its last haunting page."
Chicago Tribune

"A novel of crackling vividness"
The New York Times Book Review

"The Great Gastby captures the twenties and yet transcends them. All the Little Live Things is a comparable achievement for the sixties. . . . Stegner's craft is here at an apex."
Virginia Quarterly Review


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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary American Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (December 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140154418
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140154412
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #304,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William Cuthbertson on June 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
Though it's moral issues are presented a little more black-and-white than in his two more widely acclaimed novels, "Crossing to Safety" and "Angle of Repose," this short novel can be read successfully on a variety of levels. It showcases many of Stegner's recurring ideas: living consciously in an increasingly unethical environment; suicide as an easy escape from responsibility; and how the choice is never between "life and death" as much as it a decision about how you want your life to effect those around you. But analysis aside, I love this book for Marian Catlan, one of Stegner's most intricate women yet. This novel is my personal favorite of all Stegners and one of the best novels I've ever read.
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Format: Paperback
The first analogy which came to mind after reading this book was that it was like being in some kind of a heavyweight boxing match. You read the book and you take a pounding and you set down the book and you're dazed. The emotional involvement is almost that physical. The second analogy, which I thought of later, was that of looking at an expensive diamond. You see a new depth of beauty every time you turn it in a different direction.

It is the story of a 64 year-old man, Joe Allston, who moves to a five acre ranch in what is apparently an area south of San Jose, California. He is retired, and he moves there with his wife to escape everyday life, and enjoy his remaining days in peace. It is 1967. But two events occur which shake him out of his quietude. The first is the sudden and unexpected appearance of Peck, a 24 year-old hippie, who asks them if he can camp out on their property. Reluctantly, and out of a sense of repressed guilt over the death of his own 38 year-old son three years earlier, Joe agrees. The second event is the appearance of a new neighbor, Marian, a 30ish woman, with her husband and child. Joe is smitten by her beauty and charm and immediately--in a purely platonic way--falls in love with her.

They have a lengthy discussion on the first day he meets her. He wants to know what she is planning to do with the property, which has gone untended for many years, and she tells him that she's going to do--nothing. She loves nature the way it is, she says, and relishes the wild, untamed, natural beauty of it. He tells her about poison oak, stink weeds, snakes and other vermin, and says to her that it is not possible to not want to change nature. He tells her about the flea-ridden gopher he had killed that morning on his property.
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Format: Paperback
From the moment I began this extraordinary novel until the last word of the last sentence I was caught-up, as usual, in the richness, the sheer luminosity, of Wallace Stegner's prose. I was also taken, from the first, by Joe Allston, the 64 year-old retired literary agent, main character and narrator of "All The Little Live Things." Allston is one of the most complex characters I have met in literature and for some reason he crept into my heart.
Outwardly a curmudgeon of the first order, he is introspective and ruthlessly honest with himself...and with everyone else. Stegner once said about his writing, "In fiction I think we should have no agenda but to tell the truth." Joe Allston personifies this maxim. He seeks his own truth - the reality behind his feelings and actions. He is aware of his flaws, his resistance to change, his near obsession with the Protestant work ethic and resentment towards those seeking to escape it through alternative lifestyles. He also agonizes over the death of his son and their terribly flawed relationship.
This is a story of relationships, of love, alienation, anger and death and their role in Allston's life and in the human condition. Set in the late 1960s, a time of political unrest, general dissent and back to nature "hippie lifestyles," Joe is bewildered and angered by society's changing mores. He and his wife Ruth have a ranch in the California hills. When a manipulative young man on a motorcycle asks to camp on his land, Joe begrudgingly gives his consent. Another newcomer to Allston's life is the lovely young mother, Marion Catlin, who moves to a nearby house with her husband and child. A hauntingly poignant love story lies at the heart of this novel - the relationship between Joe and this young, pregnant mother.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the most powerfully emotional books I have ever read. It is not third-person entertainment. It is a book that makes a reader think about how to accept, if not submit to life, with all of its fullness, including both joy and pain.
The story is set in the late 1960's, around the retiring life of Joseph and Ruth Allston. Joe tells the story in first person, over a period of about one year. It opens with a dreary October day as Joe and his wife, Ruth, return home after a somber event. The rest of the book traces what led up to that event, and the overwhelming affect a young woman had on Joe's life.
The woman, Marian Catlin, is Joe's opposite. Joe is a highly responsible, controlling kind of man, with traditional values, who has recently retired and moved to the hills of Northern California to build his perfect life and to escape from the painful memory of the death of his 37-year-old son. Marian, the same age as his son, is his new neighbor and welcomes life openly, with all of its vitality. Joe loves Marian as his own daughter, and he reluctantly learns to accept life much more openly, and with a far deeper degree of sorrow than he has ever known.
There is another interesting character who plays a key antagonist role, a dysfunctional hippie named Peck. Peck has all the irresponsible qualities of Joe's deceased son, and he hates him for it. The interplay of emotions created in Joe by the rebellious, irresponsible Peck with the openness and acceptance of life by Marian results in a gripping tension that builds flawlessly throughout the book, to the powerful end.
There are some dramatic scenes in the story, but the real drama is what you will feel tugging within your own heart. This is an exceptional book, one of a few to remember over a lifetime...and you will.
As a writer, myself, I could not recommend this book more highly. Wallace Stegner, the accomplished, deceased author, gave us a treasure of a book.
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