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on August 27, 2016
An absolutely beautiful book. Currently sitting in my local coffee shop with blotchy cheeks and mascara running down my face.

I don't usually write reviews, but I was compelled to write one for this book. I am a writer, not a fisherman. I actually don't really like fishing nor know anything about it. That didn't make me any less spellbound by this tale.

The writing is gorgeous and precise and sly and so unexpectedly beautiful and logical and funny and emotional. It reads differently than the books I'm used to reading. There's no faux suspense. There's no tricks or shock value. It's just a beautiful story.

It took me a little while to get completely invested. I'd say I read the first 30 pages slowly, and then the remainder all at once (of the title story).

I know this isn't a great book review, but just wanted to add my opinion. I'm a 26 year old female who works in the tech industry. My one fishing experience was when I caught a fish with my grandpa when I was 7 and it was bleeding and I cried for two days. I loved this book. Don't discount it because it's about fishing. It is beautiful and perfect, or maybe I should say "more perfect."
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on January 9, 2018
This is one of my all time favorite books. Certainly in the category of novellas - as has been noted by better more able reviewers than me. I give it to others as gifts often, and as I inscribe it, I tell the recipient that: 1) it's NOT about religion per se though it's deeply spiritual; 2) it's NOT about fishing nor fly fishing in particular / those are merely interesting backdrops to the story; 3) rivers and waters ARE indeed a metaphorical 'vehicle' for the central messaging of author Norman Maclean.
I mostly give this book to men, young men. Preferably young men with brothers. I think young men with brothers will get the most out of it. Others may read it and disagree with MY target 'gift' audience. You are free to read the book and give it to who YOU think best! I've read many reviews and all about Noman Maclean. His book(s) affect me deeply and I can get moved just by recalling the storyline - which never leaves me because of its similarities to my own personal experience.
Spoiler Alert: It's mostly about the regrets we all will feel one day for not taking action to SAVE someone dear to us who we know needs saving - but that we also know we cannot save. Who we know we are helpless to save. I've had that in my life, as have many others. Perhaps it's a sibling who's a substance abuser. Or a gambler. A ne'er do well. Read this book and you will be moved to understand that your personal inadequacies in the face of such terrible loss was part of a larger spiritual plan.
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on October 22, 2016
This is a well-written, thought-provoking journey into the Montana landscape and the minds and hearts of the Maclean family. Norm tells about his father, brother Paul and mother as they live close to rivers. The men spend endless hours fly-fishing and developing its art form. The father is a minister, the mom, a strong support system and his brother Paul baffles them all. He seems to have his own set way of seeing the world and his tragic death leaves them all pondering how they could have helped him or if they could have helped him make better choices. Seeing the movie first left me with a few spoilers, but the fine writing of Norman Maclean made the second time around just as intriguing!
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VINE VOICEon December 9, 2014
This is not a book one easily puts down. Norman Maclean wrote about what he loved, and his love showed in what he wrote. Probably aren't too many people reading this review that haven't seen the movie "A River Runs Through It." The movie catches the gist of the first novella here, but doesn't quite do the book justice. Unfortunately for me, it took me a while to shed the image of Brad Pitt as Paul. Really wished I hadn't watched the movie so many years ago before reading the book. As the book was much better, and though Brad Pitt played the part well, I feel my imagination was held back just a bit in letting Paul's character develop fully as I read the novella. Still, my wife had a hard time getting me to the dinner table once I started reading.
"Logging, Pimping, and Your Pal Jim" I have learned is somewhat of a cult classic for those who love the woods and stories about the men who inhabit them. Years ago a pastor friend recommended the story to me, and I think it was the best gift he ever gave me.
"USFS 1919, The Ranger, the Cook and the Hole in the Sky" Is an autobiographical account of the early days of the U.S. Forest Service and the men who worked the woods. In telling the story you get a feel for Montana almost a hundred years ago, but that is true of all the stories in this book. It was a Montana full of loggers, loose women, cowboys and card games. When at the end of the story Norman ends up nursing back his health in the Hamilton whorehouse, (where better?) his first thought is, this is just like one of those old west whore houses my friend described to me, before he realizes that it is in fact the thing itself. The door on that house shuts behind it tales of a misspent youth in the wilds of a Montana that was still young itself.
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on July 6, 2013
"A River Runs Through It" is beautifully told. It will have you laughing out loud at times and choking up with emotion at others. It's a story we all seem to know now because of the movie. And as great of a job that Robert Redford did with the movie, it lacks the emotion that Mr. Maclean manages to evoke with just a few well placed words.

This book makes you long for simpler times when people were actually more "connected" without all the cell phones, e-mails, etc. You FEEL their love and their concern for family members and loved ones... and it's just so beautifully told that you will want to drink it up. And even if you know nothing about fishing, or fly-fishing in particular, Mr. Maclean will make you fall in love with the idea of it.

His other stories in the book (Logging and Pimping and "Your Pal, Jim" and "USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky" aren't that bad, either. I found "Logging..." especially a fun read.

The Kindle version is well presented. It's the quintessential reason to have a Kindle... a great book in an electronic format that makes it easy to read while traveling!
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on November 20, 2016
These concluding words should compel anyone to read this excellent book:

"Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but still I reach out to them.

"Of course, now I am too old to be much of a fisherman, and now of course I usually fish the big waters alone, although some friends think I shouldn't. Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.

"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

"I am haunted by waters"
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on October 14, 2011
"It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us."

In his requiem to a lost family idyll set beautifully in rural western Montana, Norman MacLean seeks to understand as much as he seeks to be understood. Rich with both vivid description of spectacular natural beauty and the sometimes heartbreaking tragedy of human failing, MacLean's brilliant prose inspires the reader to think deeply, to plumb the depths of his own soul, and to examine the ties that bind his closest relationships. Though there are actually 3 stories contained in A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, it is the title novella that makes our eyes water.

One suspects it was catharsis that MacLean was after in penning at 74 this ode to the summers of his youth spent on the pristine trout rivers near Missoula, one of which was rudely and suddenly disrupted by his brother's murder. To his surpassing mastery of the English language Maclean adds a gift for storytelling that includes a wickedly dry wit. And it is doubtless through his colossal talent as a writer infusing this marvelous story with emotion that he is able to move us profoundly in only 104 pages.

For instance, he conveys a mystique, a sort of aura, in his lyrical descriptions of his brother Paul, as if Paul was part angler and part angel.

"Below him was the multitudinous river, and, where the rock had parted it around him, big-grained vapor rose. The mini-molecules of water left in the wake of his line made momentary loops of gossamer, disappearing so rapidly in the rising big-grained vapor that they had to be retained in memory to be visualized as loops. The spray emanating from him was fine-grained still and enclosed him in a halo of himself. The halo of himself was always there and always disappearing, as if he were candlelight flickering about three inches from himself. The images of himself and his line kept disappearing into the rising vapors of the river, which continually circled to the tops of the cliffs where, after becoming a wreath in the wind, they became rays of sun."

We realize that MacLean deeply admired his brother. But ultimately he could not help him. And he, like the boys' Presbyterian minister father, almost certainly remained troubled by that fact until his death. Yet MacLean eventually came to understand why, and through his exceptional storytelling and keen insight into the human condition, we begin to understand as well.

"So it is that we can seldom help anybody. Either we don't know what part to give or maybe we don't like to give any part of ourselves. Then, more often than not, the part that is needed is not wanted. And even more often, we do not have the part that is needed."

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on January 9, 2015
This pity is that Norman Maclean did not begin writing until age 70, despite having taught literature for decades. Others have provided abundant praise for these richly evocative stories, and I will not attempt to offer something repetitive here. My son observed that perhaps the wisdom of years of experience, both derived from growing up in the natural beauty of the West as well as from days in the classroom reflecting on great literature (coupled with an upbringing that tied good reading, spirituality and the wonder of nature together) provided the ideal background for producing a writer with a keen and comfortable sense of expression. I think he may be right. This is a book that has earned a treasured place on my bookshelf.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon September 17, 2014
If you liked the movie, you'll love the book.
I hate to start a review this way, because I'd much rather people read books before going to see the movie, as so much is lost in the movie production.
Norman Maclean tells his own story of his family and the romance his family has with God and nature. Illustrating the conflict between transcendentalism and literary naturalism, and the conflict of spirit vs. common sense, this book has more lessons than I could list here--probably more than I could learn in two or three readings (which I have done). Each time I pick it up, there is a new lesson, a new spin, and a new thing of beauty to behold.
I'm not one to recommend books on a spiritual level, but this one is a big thumbs-up from me.
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on April 17, 2014
This book is a work of art. As a fly fisherman and the father of a beautiful but troubled son, the heartfelt truth of this story often moved me to tears. "Why is it that those who most need advice never hear it?" From the poetic experiences of trout fishing, to the seedy descriptions of small town watering holes, and the nefarious characters who infest them, I found myself reliving colorful vignettes of my youth in upper Michigan where my fathers evening and weekend job was bartending. A literary work becomes a masterpiece as well as work of art, when it contains universal truth and relevance. This work is beautiful, timeless, and true. If you.have not read " A River Runs Through It", you cannot truthfully call yourself... well read.
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