The Jump-off Creek

The Jump-off Creek

Book - 1998
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Homesteader Lydia Sanderson writes about her life on Jump-Off Creek in the higher mountain country of Oregon in 1895. She tells of friendship, loss, daily struggles, and achievements.
"Set in the high mountain country of Oregon during the 1890s, this first novel is a quiet, unsparing portrait of pioneer life, recounted simply and without romanticism. Drawing on pioneer diaries, journals and hand-me-down stories of her own ancestors, Gloss displays a deep awareness not only of the brutal hardships of frontier life, but also of the moral codes and emotional attachments of the people who settled there. Drawn by the freedom the West offers, Lydia Sanderson leaves a disappointing marriage in Pennsylvania and comes to Jump-Off Creek to homestead a place of her own. Tim Whiteaker, 'gone cowboying' since the age of 13, and his partner, the half-Indian Blue Odell, raise cattle nearby. Three wolfers, squatting on abandoned property near Jump-Off Creek and walking the thin edge of the law in order to earn a marginal living, provide much of the tension within the novel. The author's intimate understanding of the harsh physical conditions and of the rituals and practices of frontier life (there are long descriptions of how to brand cattle and how to mend a roof) sometimes overshadows a deeper delineation of character. However, most of the scenes are handled with a restraint that communicates the characters' endemic loneliness, and the dialogue, though spare, is rich enough to convey their emotional conflicts."--Publisher's Weekly.
"Not a standard 'Western,' but a novel of the West notable for its accurate portrayal of life on a homestead and for the quality of writing that will make readers linger. At the height of the Depression of 1895 Lydia Sanderson, freed by the death of her husband, travels to Oregon where she homesteads on a mountain, living in a wretched hovel on land not fit to grow even a vegetable garden. Her companions are two mules, two goats, and hard work. Lydia's neighbors are few and far but bound together by a common struggle to survive. Their life is one of terse converse, kindness, and quick response to one another's needs. A rare treat of a first novel."--Sister Avila, Academy of Holy Angels, Minneapolis, Library Lournal.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 1998, ©1989
Edition: 1st Mariner books ed
ISBN: 9780618565870
Branch Call Number: FICTION GLOSS 1998
Characteristics: 186 pages ; 21 cm
Alternative Title: Jump-off creek : a novel


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Set in the 1890s, this book gives a really accurate picture of what it would have been like to be a homesteader. It's especially lovely to watch all the homesteaders become a real community and begin to pull together.

The unforgettable story of widowed homesteader Lydia Sanderson and her struggles to settle in the mountains of Oregon in the 1890's.

At the height of the Depression of 1895 Lydia Sanderson, freed by the death of her husband, travels to Oregon where she homesteads on a mountain, living in a wretched hovel on land not fit to grow even a vegetable garden. Her companions are two mules, two goats, and hard work.

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Feb 07, 2016

This is a great story told via Lydia's journal entries and third-person narrative following different characters. Lydia Sanderson "had it mind to come West and take up ranching" after a hard life in Pennsylvania, first with her parents, then her husband. She sells all of her deceased husbands worldly goods and buys a decrepit place on the Jump-off Creek in Oregon's Blue Mountains.
Gloss tells Lydia's story without the usual romanticizing of a pioneer woman's efforts, which I truly appreciated. Lydia is a strong, self-sufficient woman who takes to her new life with a serious resolve. She has a few encounters with other women and gets to know a couple of cowboy/ranchers near her place, but she is resolute in her "keenness to . . . stand under my own roof at last."
Gloss's writing is spare but eloquent and Lydia's journal entries are realistic and potent, as is the entire book. One of my favorite lines is ". . . he had seen the trees surprised often enough, hunched up in full green leaf under shawls of snow."

Feb 07, 2015

If there were 10 stars possible for Molly Gloss's wonderful novel, I'd give them. I'm rereading it for perhaps the 3rd time, and it continues to dumbfound me at the beauty of the language. And somehow when she describes a new character, the reader feels an acquaintance has already been established. I find myself thinking something like, "Oh, yes, he's like that mean guy who lived down the street when I was a child," or "Oh, right, she's like Joyce who lived next door and who was so patient with her kids, and with me, a moody pre-teen." Her characters are heroic in dealing daily with enormous hardships, but they do so in a quiet, matter-of-fact way that is so different from the nonsense offered in today's media. Also, Gloss's characters are not cookie-cutter Bad or Good, but rather are some of each, as is true for all us humans.

Oct 26, 2011

I really like this author's talent at putting herself into the voices of her characters and making them unique in the process. She has a great gift for the ways of talking and seeing in generations past. Just a wonderful, well-written book. The other book of hers which I've read is "Hearts of Horses" which is on my all-time great books list :)


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