The Big Rock Candy Mountain: Neihart

Entering Neihart, up in the pine woods, he eased up on the throttle, looking for a garage where he might get gas, a café where he could wash away the fuzzy feeling in his head with a cup of coffee. There was only one garage, with two gas drums on wooden supports and another drum marked “Oil.” As he pulled in he caught the reflection from the headlights of a car parked against the side, facing out. He swung a little to bring his lights on it. Empty…. His mind instantly alert and suspicious, Bo dug a couple of silver dollars from his pocket and laid them in the garage man’s hand. Two men, driving a back road at night, parking nose out by a garage wall, didn’t look good. (353)

Wallace Stegner. The Big Rock Candy Mountain. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

About the Book

The Big Rock Candy Mountain

The Big Rock Candy Mountain is Stegner’s fictional telling of his troubled family’s search for wealth and happiness in the far-flung Canadian and American West. Father Bo Mason reaches for the big score—the candy mountain—in North Dakota, Saskatchewan, Montana, and Utah, including running a bootlegging operation during Prohibition. Despite his charm and intelligence, Bo fails time and again, sending his wife and two sons into despair and black humor. The novel provides a kaleidoscopic portrait of the West in the pre-Depression years while depicting a son’s coming to terms with his father’s troubled legacy.

While the settings in The Big Rock Candy Mountain clearly reference actual locales, it is understood that the book—including its places—is ultimately the product of the author’s imagination. The intent of this literary map is to enrich the reading experience by interpreting those places, not to render them literally or definitively.

About the Author

Wallace Stegner

Wallace Stegner was born in Iowa in 1909. He received his B.A. from the University of Utah and completed graduate work at Iowa. He taught at the University of Wisconsin and Harvard before settling into an enduring, influential role as creative writing mentor at Stanford University. Stegner remains a towering presence in Western American literature, having produced first-rate books in multiple genres, including Angle of Repose for which Stegner won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972. He died in Santa Fe in 1993.