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5.0 out of 5 stars A book you will read more than once.
Norman Maclean began writing late in life, passing away not long after penning this extraordinary piece, depriving us of his gift just as he arrived. The book is actually three short stories but the focus is clearly on the novella "A River Runs Through It". On the surface, the title story is his recollections of his father, a Presbyterian minister, and his...
Published on April 26 2004 by George G. Kiefer

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad. Movie is better.
I learned to fish on the Blackfoot and know (the new) Lolo Hot Springs as well as MacLean. I enjoyed the thoughtfulness of his prose and his writing style, but found that his story wasn't particularly compelling. The movie was splendid, and anyone who has not seen Montana cannot create the beauty of Big Sky Country without seeing the movie. The best words of the book...
Published on Nov. 1 1997


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5.0 out of 5 stars A book you will read more than once., April 26 2004
By 
George G. Kiefer (Sevierville, TN United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A River Runs Through It (Hardcover)
Norman Maclean began writing late in life, passing away not long after penning this extraordinary piece, depriving us of his gift just as he arrived. The book is actually three short stories but the focus is clearly on the novella "A River Runs Through It". On the surface, the title story is his recollections of his father, a Presbyterian minister, and his troubled but talented brother, with whom he fished. Set in the Montana of Maclean's youth, he paints exquisitely vivid and beautiful word pictures of a land and water and family now gone. At the core is the frustration of the often-futile attempt of trying to help another or trying to save a loved one from their self-destruction. There are passages here which are as wonderfully written as anything in English. Not a page passes without discovering a superbly crafted gem. "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." "It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us." Throughout the tale, his life, his religion, his family, his fly-fishing are metaphors, each for the other. And the words of each are heard in the waters and stone of the rivers. He is haunted, he tells us, by waters. I am haunted by his words which approach poetry.
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5.0 out of 5 stars i actualy read it, Jan. 6 2004
By 
depp (stocktuky mi usa) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A River Runs Through It (Hardcover)
in this book a river runs thought is about a man who is trying to cope with his brothers death. the back drop of the story is fly-fishing and it is sometimes confused with the real meaning of the story. i think that the real meaning of the story is that life is all about building relationships and keeping them strong.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I am haunted by this book..., Oct. 29 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: A River Runs Through It (Hardcover)
I have read this book twice now, and plan to read it several more times through my lifetime. It is a powerful book that speaks to a person on so many different levels. I saw the story the first time... I saw the art the second. As others have said, this book is not about fly-fishing per se. It is about the powerful bonds between family members.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I am haunted..., July 25 2001
By 
Orrin C. Judd "brothersjudddotcom" (Hanover, NH USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A River Runs Through It (Hardcover)
When, several years ago, I started reading a lot of fishing books, one title kept cropping up in other books. Every author seemed to defer to A River Runs Through It; it was universally acknowledged to be the greatest fishing story ever written. I dutifully sought it out and read it. I'm sure everyone has seen the movie by now, so I won't be giving anything away when I confess that Paul's death upset me so much that, on that first reading, I hated the book. It was like Old Yeller and the MASH where Henry died and Brian's Song all rolled into one. Returning to it better prepared, I simply enjoyed it for the language and for the bittersweet family story it relates and I learned to love it. Then, in 1992, Robert Redford brought the story to the screen and the beauty of the scenery and some terrific performances, combined with the large chunks of narrative taken directly from the book, resulted in one of the better movies of recent years and cemented the book's place in the pantheon of great American stories.
Amazingly, Norman MacLean, who taught English at the University of Chicago for 43 years, did not publish this book until 1976, after retiring from his teaching job in 1973. I don't know whether he had worked on the story throughout his whole life, as was the case with the posthumous book
Young Men and Fire, but the final product has such beautifully sculpted language, that it would not be hard to believe that it is the end result of four decades of effort. Here is the famous opening:
In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ's disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.
And, of course, after Paul's death, Norman's father urges him:
Why don't you make up a story and the people to go with it? Only then will you understand what happened and why. It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us.
And the story concludes:
Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but I still reach out to them.
Of course, now I am too old to be much of a fisherman, and 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 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.
And in between these memorable passages, MacLean unfolds a timeless story of fathers and sons and brothers and their often futile attempts to understand one another and the way in which sport can provide a tie, sometimes the only tie, between them. You will be haunted by the affecting story and by MacLean's crystalline prose in this very nearly perfect book.
GRADE: A+
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5.0 out of 5 stars Pure, June 6 2001
By 
M. Meszaros "acadia2431" (Pennsylvania) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A River Runs Through It (Hardcover)
Exquisite and pure as wood, or water or anything that is solely itself. A simple story of life, two brothers, family, passion and water but as we all know none of that is simple. Rich in nuance and tenderness, quietness and rage; the river and the life. Norman Maclean says in 160 pages more in the spaces in between the words and the things the characters do not say, than most authors say in 500 pages.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, June 6 2001
By 
George G. Kiefer (Sevierville, TN United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A River Runs Through It (Hardcover)
Norman Maclean began writing late in life, passing away not long after penning this extraordinary piece, depriving us of his gift just as he arrived. The book is actually three short stories but the focus is clearly on the novella "A River Runs Through It". On the surface, the title story is his recollections of his father, a Presbyterian minister, and his troubled but talented brother, with whom he fished. Set in the Montana of Maclean's youth, he paints exquisitely vivid and beautiful word pictures of a land and water and family now gone. At the core is the frustration of the often-futile attempt of trying to help another or trying to save a loved one from their self-destruction. There are passages here which are as wonderfully written as anything in English. Not a page passes without discovering a superbly crafted gem. "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." "It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us." Throughout the tale, his life, his religion, his family, his fly-fishing are metaphors, each for the other. And the words of each are heard in the waters and stone of the rivers. He is haunted, he tells us, by waters. I am haunted by his words which approach poetry.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The beauty of nature captured in words, May 24 2001
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This review is from: A River Runs Through It (Hardcover)
I went into this novel having already seen, and enjoyed, the movie. I had travelled to the area of the country that it was set in several times, and I had been fly-fishing while out there. But I was struck by how the book was still able to move me. Maclean's eloquent descriptions are able to come as close to transporting the reader to the place being written of as any novel I have ever read. You don't have to love the mountains, fly-fishing, or your little brother to like this book. But if you try to understand what these things meant to Maclean then you will get much more out of this wonderful work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Turning Pages of a Classic, April 19 2001
This review is from: A River Runs Through It (Hardcover)
There is something about this novel that felt like reading a classic novel that had been passed on for generations. Maclean gives a story that has so much purity to the relationships between his characters, and there is definitely a sense of innocence within the text.
The story is based around the relationships of father and son, and brother to brother. Between these two relationships, Maclean explores the tribulations that come within a family, and the challenges of wanting to protect a loved one compared to having to let them make their own mistakes. Maclean has an excellent handle on conveying the true emotions that come within a bond such as these, and it gives and very honest sense to the story.
The lessons given to the characters of the book take on the medium of fly fishing. There were times when these sections seemed very lengthy. But once they can be gotten throughm the reader is given a great reward by Maclean's natural ability to tighten a story and use very exact and straight forward language. This is a novel that shows a contemporary reader that we have masters of the English language all around us.
I would recommend this book to anyone. It gives a very strong sense of place as well as excellent characterization. The sense of place is what makes the book have a bit of a romantic feel to it, though it revolves around the challenges between family men and their friendships.
Maclean show that even when you love someone with eveything you have, you still have to let them be and make their own decisions.
This book asks the questions that can be applied to many relationships between not only family members but also friendships.
It is an excellent read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Poetic, magnificent, lyrical, Jan. 5 2001
By 
doc peterson (Portland, Oregon USA) - See all my reviews
Norman MacLean's A river Runs Through It is a moving story written in lyrical prose. Yet I have to give it only four stars because the "other stories" included in the book really pale in comparison.
A River Runs Through It has all the majesty and beauty of the American West written with the deep emotion and reverance MacLean attaches to fly-fishing (he compares it to religion). The other stories ("Logging and Pimping" and "USFS 1919") relate to MacLean's experiences working in the Montana Rockies with the Forest Service, and for some reason did not move me as the former story did. His relationship with his brother in A River Runs Through It particularly spoke to me.
All of MacLean's stories are good, but it is MacLean's easygoing narrative, vivid prose and almost spiritual way in which he turns a phrase that makes this book so special. It is an outstanding example of modern American writing, and should be read for such - not fishing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Even better than I remembered, Aug. 23 2000
By 
blueotter (Chicago, Illinois United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A River Runs Through It (Hardcover)
I recently reread this wonderful book. I had remembered the lyrical and stirring fishing scenes, with the artistry of the younger brother, but I had forgotten the equally compelling story about family relationships and life in Montana. The writing is as clear as a fast running stream, and the illustrations in this edition, particularly of the fishing flies, fit the mood of the book and make it even more enjoyable.
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A River Runs Through It
A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean (Hardcover - May 15 1989)
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