I docked this exquisitely written book half a star because it doesn't entirely hang together. Every section's magnificent, though. Stegner's love for the hard-scrabble land of SW Sask. where he spent the formative years of his childhood, from 1914-1920, shines through. He segues from his own memories, to a history of the Mounties, to the years-long surveying of the 49th Parallel boundary and its aftermath, and make you as interested in each as he is. The title comes from a native shrub, the scent of which on a return trip 50 years later brings his entire childhood back to him. I read the book because I'd loved everything else I read by Stegner. Besides, my mother was born nearby during the same time period. I wanted to know more about the area when she and her family lived there than she remembered. I've been recommending it to everyone in my extended family. I also recommend it to anyone interested in America's last frontier, on either side of the border.
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