Breaking Clean by Judy Blunt

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“A memoir with the fierce narrative force of an eastern Montana blizzard, rich in story and character, filled with the bone-chilling details of Blunt’s childhood. She writes without bitterness, with an abiding love of the land and the work and her family and friends that she finally left behind, at great sacrifice, to begin to write. This is a magnificent achievement, a book for the ages. I’ve never read anything that compares with it.”
—James Crumley, author of The Last Good Kiss

Born into a third generation of Montana homesteaders, Judy Blunt learned early how to “rope and ride and jockey a John Deere,” but also to “bake bread and can vegetables and reserve my opinion when the men were talking.” The lessons carried her through thirty-six-hour blizzards, devastating prairie fires and a period of extreme isolation that once threatened the life of her infant daughter. But though she strengthened her survival skills in what was—and is—essentially a man’s world, Blunt’s story is ultimately that of a woman who must redefine herself in order to stay in the place she loves.

Breaking Clean is at once informed by the myths of the West and powerful enough to break them down. Against formidable odds, Blunt has found a voice original enough to be called classic.

About Judy Blunt

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Judy Blunt spent more than thirty years on wheat and cattle ranches in northeastern Montana, before leaving in 1986 to attend the University of Montana. Her poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is the recipient of a Jacob K. Javits Graduate Fellowship and a Montana Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship. Breaking Clean was awarded a 1997 PEN/Jerard Fund Award for a work in progress, as well as a 2001 Whiting Writers' Award. She lives in Missoula, Montana.
Published February 5, 2002 by Knopf. 303 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Inheriting the literary territory previously claimed by Ingalls Wilder and Cather, Blunt (who’s just been named a Whiting Writer’s Award recipient) builds on their accomplishments, yet marks American literature in her own way.

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Publishers Weekly

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Poet and essayist Blunt grew up on a Montana cattle ranch in the 1950s and 60s, where "indoor plumbing" meant a door on the privy and "running water" was a fast ranch wife with two buckets.

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Book Reporter

Both of my parents grew up on farms in Montana and both left farming as soon as they could.

Jan 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Breaking Clean


Montana native Blunt makes a strong debut with this memoir of life on a cattle ranch during the 1950s and '60s.

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