One of her five best books with an original way of approaching the subject of sin, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Angle of ReposeRead about the other books on the list.
by Wallace Stegner (1971)
'Angle of repose' is a technical term, from mining; but it describes the course of two marriages in this lyrical, emotionally complex novel. The contemporary American West provides the time frame for one marriage; the settling of the West, in the later 19th century, the other. What links them is the 20th-century grandson-narrator's attempt to piece together the story of his grandparents' relationship. His research leads him to uncover an awful and heartbreaking moment of marital betrayal and its terrible consequences: sustained loss, aching guilt and remorseless, relentless punishment. The grandson's own marriage is similarly afflicted. Listening to the westward train as he lies awake at night "in this not-quite-quiet darkness, while the diesel breaks its heart more and more faintly on the mountain grade," the narrator wonders whether "I am man enough to be a bigger man than my grandfather." The only life-sustaining response to sin, he realizes, is forgiveness.
Angle of Repose is one of Andrea Wulf's six favorite books.
The Page 99 Test: Sin: The Early History of an Idea.
Writers Read: Paula Fredriksen.