The Stranger in Big Sur

By Lillian Bos Ross

I both enjoyed and didn't enjoy this book. Ross' story shows us the world of the Big Sur coast as it was in the mid-nineteenth century. Life is hard, but the land is beautiful. We follow the main character, Zande Allan, through the changes his life makes when he marries his mail-order bride, Hannah. On the one hand, the story resonated with me in much the same way that Steinbeck's works do. I have spent a lot of time in Big Sur; I've even lived there a couple of times. So, as I made my way through Stranger, much of description was familiar to me and made me feel connected to the story. On the other hand, I don't know that I really cared for the story or the way it was written. Ross wrote the story in the first person and so decided to write her prose as Zande Allan would say it. It added to the ambience, but made it harder to read. But even more, I just didn't care for Zande. In some ways his actions and attitudes can be excused as a product of the world he lived in, but even by the end of the story I just couldn't find it in me to like him. Even so, if the character tale was lost on me, I still found the book fascinating as a description of life on the coast.

Started: 9/23/2004 | Finished: 10/7/2004

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