A River Runs through It (2024)

Julie G

934 reviews3,370 followers

November 3, 2020

Reading Road Trip 2020

Current location: Montana

This is my 700th review for Goodreads.
(This one's for you, Dad).

A River Runs through It (2)

My father was never much of a traveler, so it was a big deal when we convinced him one year to fly out west to our home in Colorado and then drive north with us to visit Yellowstone National Park.

Dad was a fisherman. Not a fly fisherman, but the kind that “fish[ed] with worms” and bait. He was a man who loved fishing and who always appreciated the great outdoors. He was the perfect candidate for this particular trip.

He loved it, loved almost every moment of it, as far as I could tell. It was as if he couldn't stop being startled by Yellowstone, by its crazy and almost supernatural beauty, and the whole trip he was quieter than usual, murmuring his appreciation and surprise.

As we drove out of the north end of the Park, leaving Wyoming behind and entering Montana, we were greeted with a sudden burst of white and blue that was so awe-inspiring, my dad, who had a rich baritone voice like Johnny Cash, declared from the front passenger seat of the car, “Well, my God. . .”

Those of you who have been to Montana will understand: “Well, my God. . .” Within minutes of entering the state, you're pulling on your fleece and saying corny sh*t like, “This is God's country.” Or, “This is big sky country.” You can't stop staring. It's a wonder you don't crash your car.

It is no place for small fish or small fisherman.

Several famous stories have been set in this stunning place, the best, of course, being Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove (there is no point in arguing this with me, ever). And, keep in mind that Thomas Savage's The Power of the Dog is not to be ignored, either.

This short novel, A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, is quite possibly the most famous one for inspiring a film by the same name, that highlights the beauty that is Montana.

And as a story it is . . . oh, so inspiring, too.

I felt like the chatter and bubble and sparkle of the river that runs through this story filled every one of my senses.

Though this is a novel about fly fishing (and I do mean a novel about fly fishing), it is so much else, too.

It is a story about family, more specifically about two very different brothers who love each other and love fly fishing, but don't quite rely on each other in their time of need.

It turns out, “you can love completely without complete understanding,” and from the foreshadowing throughout this story you are aware that it is going to involve a painful loss at some point.

Life always does, doesn't it?

There were tears for me here, especially since last Friday was the sixth anniversary of my father's passing, but, to conjure my dad with this read was such a gift. I felt like he was reading the book right over my shoulder.

Old fishermen never really die anyway, do they?

    70s-forever-more-1970s-titles a-buck-and-change big-sky-montana


1,910 reviews2,769 followers

September 2, 2019

Written in 1976, Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It feels timeless, in the best possible way. There’s something so soothing about being in and among nature, without the noise or hustle of deadlines, and losing yourself in those moments where you can feel at one with something larger, more profound than the everyday-ness of life that we get caught up in.

”In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.

Religion is a part of this story, as the father is a Presbyterian minister, but it is subdued, as is the father - a quietly contemplative man not prone to the extreme, or nonsense. But the real religion is fishing to the two brothers, Norman and Paul; to their father it is where he revives himself, drawing on ideas to share with his congregation.

”My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things – trout as well as eternal salvation – come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.
“So my brother and I learned to cast Presbyterian-style, on a metronome.”

I’ve wanted to read this since I saw the movie whenever it first came out in whatever format it was then – probably VHS tapes. I think it took me at least three times to watch it all the way through, between work and traveling for work, I was worn out. But then, I watched it all the way through, and the first thing I remember saying to my kids was along the lines of: pack your bags, we’re moving to Montana.

”The canyon was glorified by rhythms and colors.”

Generally, I prefer to read the book before seeing the movie, but I had never even heard of the movie, let alone that it was a book before then. What I remember most at the time was thinking how much that “kid” who played Paul (Brad Pitt) looked so much like a younger version of Robert Redford.

All of the charm of the movie is inside these pages, and all of the charm of this book is inside the movie. I can’t think of another book turned into a movie that I can say that about – still, I love being able to pause, to highlight, to re-read sections of a page over and over until it becomes a part of me.

”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 a 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 basem*nt 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.”

To read this quietly shared story about art of fly-fishing, religion, families, love, parental anguish, and the art of living an honest, grateful life is to spend a moment in perfection.

I shall remain haunted.

    1900s 1920s 2019


572 reviews281 followers

February 18, 2013

My younger brother and I had a conversation growing up that went something like this:

Him: “I can’t wait to get out of here. I’m never coming back when I leave. What about you?”

Here I would always put on the most innocent of grins and reply: “Oh, I’ll never leave South Dakota, brother. It needs me here, like I need it.”

At that we would both start laughing because he knew I had just done a poor impression of Norman talking to his own brother, Paul, the mysterious brother who has wanderlust and dark secrets.

Time has passed for both my brother and I; he has been in two wars, I remained in South Dakota and started teaching at one of the colleges. Occasionally, he’ll reference this conversation on the phone but his voice belies the fact that he misses what he left. I think that is the point of A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. We are all destined to be some place. Some of us will try to create this place. Some of us will try to run from that place. But no matter that we do, that place will always call to us. Haunt us.

This short novel, novella really, is about family and fly-fishing and religion, three mainstays of South Dakota. It was easy to transplant myself within the story, as I grew up with many of the same experiences that the Maclean boys did, albeit a bit different considering age differences of those brothers to my brother and me. I romped through woods with my fly-reel, looking for a perfect place to not only fish, for fishing was really a secondary prize, but also to seek a silence that is only offered in the most remote of locales. Perhaps my sentimentality about ths book has taken me captive with age and time. But that is okay.

Boss, if you’re reading this, I miss you. Always remember that I’ll be here. Waiting. Thinking. Hoping for your arrival.




Author147 books677 followers

June 21, 2023

The story of two brothers growing up in Montana and learning to fly fish from their father, a pastor. The prose is strong, vivid and poetic. A tragic tale but also one that ripples with life, like the waters of a stream or pond.


217 reviews202 followers

July 21, 2021

Escribir es un oficio reñido con las prisas; imagino que si quisiera dedicarme a la literatura necesitaría, además de talento, mucha paciencia. Claro que, si comenzara a escribir a los 70 años, ya jubilado, con el único propósito de volcar en el papel las historias que les contaba a mis hijos cuando eran niños, sin intención alguna de publicar, aunque seguiría faltándome el talento, me lo podría tomar con mucha más calma. Y si, además, hubiera dedicado buena parte de mi vida a la pesca, tendría la paciencia garantizada.
Así debió escribir Norman Maclean —contador de cuentos, jubilado y pescador— sus primeros relatos: despacio, deteniéndose en cada detalle, rescatando sus recuerdos con parsimonia, dedicando a cada reflejo del sol sobre el agua, a cada lance de caña, a cada aroma del bosque el tiempo necesario. Del mismo modo que el río —el mismo río que cuando era un impetuoso arroyo dio título al libro— a medida que ralentiza su marcha al acercarse a la desembocadura, se hace también más poderoso y profundo, los cuentos de El río de la vida tienen una fuerza capaz de arrastrar al lector a los territorios más salvajes de Estados Unidos durante los primeros años del siglo XX.
La ventaja de escribir las historias que contabas a tus hijos muchos años más tarde, cuando ya son mayores, es que ahora puedes contarlo todo, no es necesario eliminar ningún pasaje. Aún así, los tres relatos reunidos en este volumen (El río de la vida; Leñadores, proxenetas y “Tu camarada, Jim”; y Servicio Forestal de Estados Unidos, 1919) no pueden ocultar que nacieron como narraciones infantiles; el tipo de historias con las que un padre, además de dormir a sus hijos, intenta explicarles cómo se pesca con mosca, se carga una mula o se convierte un árbol en tablones. Y, sobre todo, trata de transmitirles sus valores. Con el paso del tiempo la narración se irá enriqueciendo con “enseñanzas” de otro cariz —los conflictos familiares, el alcohol, el juego—, pero sin perder ese tono paternal y didáctico del cuento de antes de dormir.
En todo caso, se trata de relatos hermosos, incluso en el sentido más visual de la palabra. No solo se pueden ver los paisajes: llegan a todos los sentidos, se puede oler el bosque, tocar las cortezas de los árboles, oír la música de las aguas del deshielo y saborear el rancho de los leñadores tras una jornada agotadora.
A finales de los setenta, Norman Maclean nadaba en contra de la corriente de la literatura norteamericana. Uno de los primeros editores a los que presentó el manuscrito lo rechazó sorprendido. “En estos cuentos salen árboles”, arguyó; ¿cómo iba a publicar eso? Y es cierto, salen árboles, leñadores, ríos, guardabosques, tahúres… un western con truchas en lugar de caballos. Pero eso no significa que sean relatos bucólicos, anclados en la añoranza de un tiempo que fue tanto mejor cuanto más pasado. Las historias de Maclean también hablan de fracasos, de miedos, de sueños rotos, de incomunicación. Hablan de hombre curtidos, que trabajan con las manos, pelean con los puños y beben hasta caer inconscientes, y de mujeres más duras aún, capaces de sobrellevar las adversidades con la misma entereza que sus maridos e hijos y, además, dejándoles creer que son ellos los fuertes.
Hablan del amor por la tierra, pero no de un amor contemplativo; en estos cuentos la naturaleza es tan bella como peligrosa y es necesario aprender a “leerla”, a comprenderla para sobrevivir. Sólo entonces es posible amarla de la única forma en que el amor es verdadero: de igual a igual.
Y gracias a ese sentido del humor de los tipos duros, a esa retranca del que es capaz de reírse de sí mismo sin mover un músculo de la cara, no hay tristeza ni amargura en la nostalgia por ese mundo ya extinguido en el que todo estaba en su sitio y tenía un nombre. Al contrario, haber vivido en ese tiempo donde la vida era mucho más difícil, pero no tenía doblez, no es motivo de melancolía sino de satisfacción para Maclean, porque gracias a la literatura ese mundo no se ha perdido ante la voracidad de lo moderno.

“A mediados del verano, yo, con diecisiete años, aún no me veía como parte de un relato. No tenía la menor idea de que, a veces, la vida se vuelve literatura, no por mucho tiempo, desde luego, pero sí lo suficiente para ser lo mejor que recordamos y con la suficiente frecuencia como para lo que al final entendemos por vida sean esos momentos.”

A veces la vida se vuelve literatura, y otras veces, como es el caso de estos cuentos, la literatura cobra vida.
Pero por encima de todo, por encima de la belleza, de la sencillez, de la franqueza de El río de la vida, me quedo con su pasión, con la pasión sincera e infinita con que Maclean pesca, trabaja, pelea, ama y vive. Con la pasión con la que escribe. Como decía el gran Miguel Delibes, con quien sin duda Norman Maclean compartía una cierta visión de la vida, una novela es “un hombre, un paisaje y una pasión”. No se me ocurre una definición mejor: los relatos de El río de la vida contienen todos estos ingredientes.
Quizá El río de la vida parezca un libro un tanto anacrónico. Pero hoy más que nunca, ¿no apetece de vez en cuando de un horizonte amplio y una explicación sencilla? ¿Salir del atasco, apagar el móvil y buscar un lugar solitario y silencioso donde contemplar el amanecer sobre el mar, o por encima de las montañas? ¿O tomar un libro como El río de la vida de la estantería y leerlo despacio, sin prisas?


213 reviews94 followers

November 5, 2020

What a consolation. The late professor Norman Maclean's autobiographical novella so eloquently becomes a fine piece of literature in itself. Weaving metaphors- of rivers & of fly-fishing- a meditation on life.

"Eventually, all things merge into one & a river runs through it. "


Sean Sullivan

1 review7 followers

January 22, 2011

This book is so good I have trouble telling people about it. This might be because it is so easy to start off with, "Well, it's this book about fly fishing..." The truth is the book IS about fly fishing: but more than that it is about life, family, love, brotherhood, and growing up. It is the first novel the University of Chicago Press published, and if you read it, you'll understand why. The lyricism of the words, the eloquence of the imagery, and the poignancy of the story combine to make this what really should be considered an essential American classic. It reads like good poetry, flows like a river, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone.



487 reviews

July 15, 2013

Why does "The Catcher in the Rye" hold such fascination for Americans? Was it because of all the swear words in it? The fantastically awful narrator?

When I think about American literature that deserves to be read and lauded this book shoves up to first place. It is truly an American book, full of marvel and wonder and space. "A River Runs Through It" is only one of the stories in the book--each better than that last. Better still is: "USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky". Unbearably beautiful, and what a story!

    american-lit favorites lectio-divina


207 reviews331 followers

September 6, 2019

Innamorata del film, rileggo dopo molti anni questo libro meraviglioso. Ricordavo che l'argomento principe fosse la pesca, ma non che fosse così soverchiante. Eppure, tra una pesca a mosca e un gioco di polso da eseguire in quattro tempi tra le dieci e le due, spuntano cose come questa. «Dava sempre l'impressione al suo compagno di volerlo lasciare indietro, o di averlo già lasciato indietro. È una sensazione strana, meravigliosa e alquanto imbarazzante, stringere tra le braccia una donna che cerca di staccarti da terra, e non riuscire a seguirla». Farsi sorprendere da frasi così mentre stai per saltare quattro pagine di digressione sul lancio perfetto della lenza è come diventare "cascata che ripresasi dallo shock di essere caduta, torna indietro a vedere perché". E ne vale maledettamente la pena.


440 reviews21 followers

February 2, 2024

I have read this book many times and its one of a handful I try to read every few years to see if the story has changed for me, to marvel over the way Norman Maclean had with the English language, and to get back to one of the stories that help form my worldview.
A while back I read a story that posited that we are not our brothers keeper and that supposition was terrifying. As I'm older, I realize how tender the story is of a brother who his family could not help, did not know how, but marveled at the beauty he was when he was behind a fly rod. Maybe just like that, they helped him.
Edit: As I get older, I still marvel over this Norman Maclean's story about his family, and specifically, the role we have to help our family members who can't or won't be helped.

I am haunted by waters.

Diane Barnes

1,400 reviews449 followers

Shelved as 'don-t-want-to-finish'

December 8, 2018

Abandoning for now. Probably just not the right time.

Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

755 reviews369 followers

September 9, 2013

Something one really has a passion doing he often sees the entirety of human existence in it. Many chess grandmasters, for instance, have written their auto-biographies with titles like 'Chess is Life' or 'How Chess Imitates Life' or some such. Golfers, basketball players or martial arts practitioners (like Bruce Lee) see patterns, principles and lessons in the sports they indulge in which they claim teach us about life in general and how to properly live it. And so is it here: fly fishing in the great rivers of Montana. The reader, in fact, gets a broad hint of this right at its opening sentence which goes:

"In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing."

The reader who casts his eyes through it may get the feeling (like I did) that sometimes the author is stretching the analogy a little bit too far already, very close to likening God himself to a river fish (he didn't say that) and often may roll his eyes, in an amused disbelief, that the author could, for instance, suggest that fishermen like him are better at grasping eternity than anyone else--

"The body and spirit suffer no more sudden visitation than that of losing a big fish, since, after all, there must be some slight transition between life and death. But, with a big fish, one moment the world is nuclear and the next it has disappeared....Poets talk about 'spots of time,' but it is really fishermen who experience eternity compressed into a moment. No one can tell what a spot of time is until suddenly the whole world is a fish and the fish is gone. I shall remember that son of a bitch forever."

In any case, even if you disregard the fact that the story follows the rote formula of getting an old man (or woman, as in the movie Titanic) to narrate about his recollection of the past, his reminiscences about his loved ones who had died (especially those who perished in the prime of their lives), and his own personal what-could-have-beens, I'd say this probably has one of the most poignant endings in the whole of literature, whether fiction or non-fiction--

"Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but still I reach out to them.

"Of course, now I am too old to be much of a fisherman, and now of course I usually fish the big waters alone, although 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 a big 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 basem*nt 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."

I am not, however, haunted by waters. I live in the city and its remaining rivers are shallow, polluted and without any fish. But we have great malls, and more are being built! So if I were to write a story like this, I'll end it with something like: "Eventually, all our childhood playgrounds merge into one, and a mall is built on it. ...I am haunted by fastfoods."


78 reviews1 follower

March 17, 2014

I read this book for a third time on assignment from a class I'm auditing at the University of Colorado, a class taught by Patricia Limerick of the Center of the American West. The story is iconic western literature.

Here we read in novella format the essentially autobiographical story of the author's painful memories of his relationship with his beloved brother, who lives on in his consciousness as the Michelangelo of fly-fishing.

The retelling of the story, written when the author was in his seventies, reflects its Scottish-Presbyterian roots in his family upbringing. The reader must listen closely, read closely between the lines, to hear the deep heartbreak that is its driving energy.

At least 80% of the narrative is of the river, the mountains and forests, and most especially the art of fly-fishing. The story of the family could be removed from the pages and an interesting travelogue would remain. I read reviews that refer to the fishing as an extended metaphor, but my perspective tells me its primarily function is to serve as a hiding place for the author, a buffer to help him moderate the intensity of the pain he continues to bear from his failed longings to help a man bent on self-destruction.

I have visions of the author retreating to his writing cottage, laboring fully for the two years it reportedly took him to write a this short novel/long story. I suspect much of his time was spent in silent reverie.

Later made into a film of surpassing beauty by Robert Redford, the story lives on as an enduring classic of mountain life.

    camw fiction westerns

Franco Santos

483 reviews1,442 followers

August 5, 2015

A la postre, todas las cosas se funden en una sola, y por ella fluye un río.
¡Qué tedio! Está preciosamente escrito, sin embargo no veía la hora de que se terminara. Muy pesado, lleno de descripciones largas que no dicen nada. Historias insulsas. Lo mejor de este libro son la prosa y cómo Maclean termina los relatos.

Todo lo que tenía que pasar había pasado, todo lo que tenía que ser visto ya era historia. Aquel fue uno de esos momentos en los que nada queda salvo una abertura en el cielo y una historia que narrar... y quizá algo parecido a un poema.



851 reviews32 followers

July 24, 2008

"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 .... I am haunted by rivers."

And so begins master storyteller Norman Maclean's tale of his family in early 20th century Montana. The book is a classic.

    bio-memoir favorites-over-the-years montana


16 reviews1 follower

January 26, 2012

Every word of this story fits precisely with the one before and after it. The result is a seamless whole that carries the reader through time and place into the soul of the River itself. The book IS a River. And I am haunted by its waters.


683 reviews

January 29, 2020

The first line is as perfect as any first line, in any book. And it quickly devolves to many pages of clever, jocular manly-speak, not unlike listening to sports broadcasters. It's a short book, and I began to question, during this long section, why this is a classic. It's okay, and some of it is very funny, but it was like sitting down next to a tongue-in-cheek type of wise guy at a bar. But then it had this very memorable scene, and I could finally see how it got made into a movie. And there's the fishing, that I like...but still I could not see the lasting value of this book. Finally it became clear in the last 25 pages, which are poetry. And having the sister that I have, I understood the things behind the fishing so well, and there were a few scenes which said so clearly and so simply what you feel in this kind of scenario. So, I don't know. It wasn't as consistently beautiful as I'd hoped, but it was worth a read.

Howard McEwen

Author19 books20 followers

July 22, 2013

There’s not much I can write about this novella that would do it justice but I’ll try.

It’s lyrical and poetic and simple and beautiful. The prose is elegant and direct and there’s a grace to every moment of it – even when the subject matter is a drinking,fighting or whor*s. Norman Maclean writes like Hemingway, if Hemingway had gained a bit of wisdom and dropped the over-arching need to prove something to his readers or himself.

It is, a great read. It’s also a page-turner. I find it hard to read current ‘literature’. All the men in those books are usually college professors or some other ‘doesn’t sweat while working’ profession that the author has had some contact with while getting his MFA. Maclean writes about men, plain and simple.

José Manuel

453 reviews67 followers

June 8, 2020

Tres pequeñas novelas en las que se pone de manifiesto la naturaleza de la zona (Missoula) y la pesca, mucha pesca, demasiada pesca. Llegué aquí tras un muy buen recuerdo de la película de Robert Redford y debo decir que tuve que quedarme con él, en este caso (no soy muy fan de la pesca con mosca) creo que la película desarrolla mejor personajes e historia.

De los otros dos relatos poco que decir, continuistas en la forma y en el continente pero con historias que para mi gusto carecen de "chicha".

George K.

2,578 reviews351 followers

August 6, 2017

Σ'αυτή την νουβέλα βασίζεται η ομότιτλη ταινία, σε σκηνοθεσία Ρόμπερτ Ρέντφορντ και με πρωταγωνιστή τον Μπραντ Πιτ. Αν και η ταινία είναι πασίγνωστη και κατά τα φαινόμενα πολύ ωραία, δεν την έχω δει. Τώρα όμως που διάβασα το βιβλίο, μπορώ άνετα να το κάνω (μάλιστα ανήκει και στην ταινιοθήκη μου!). Λοιπόν, ο Νόρμαν Μακλίν γράφει για τον (κάπως) παράξενο αδερφό του και την ιδιαίτερη σχέση που είχε μαζί του, αλλά και για την κοινή τους αγάπη για το ψάρεμα (με ή χωρίς μύγ��) στους μεγάλους ποταμούς της Μοντάνα. Με λιτό τρόπο ο Μακλίν σκιαγραφεί το πορτρέτο του αδερφού του, καθώς και την τρέλα που μπορεί να έχουν κάποιοι άνθρωποι για το ψάρεμα και την φύση. Η γραφή είναι όμορφη και λιγάκι ιδιαίτερη, με ωραίες περιγραφές των τοπίων και ίσως με μια ποιητική διάθεση σε διάφορα σημεία. Στην όλη ιστορία μπορεί να διακρίνει κανείς λεπτό χιούμορ και μπόλικη μελαγχολία. Γενικά είναι ένα ωραίο βιβλίο που μπορεί να δημιουργήσει κάμποσα συναισθήματα και το ιδανικότερο είναι ο αναγνώστης να το διαβάσει με μια κάποια προσήλωση και χωρίς βαβούρα τριγύρω, για να απολαύσει την ομορφιά της γραφής και της ιστορίας.


Sophia Kaiser

65 reviews3 followers

September 29, 2023

“it is those we live with and love and should know who elude us”


219 reviews18 followers

August 12, 2021

He encontrado este libro como el resultado de una búsqueda de novelas ambientadas y que reflejasen la forma de vida y la cultura del estado de Montana. Dentro de unas semanas voy a pasarme unos días en El parque Glaciar en la frontera con Canadá y no quería llegar tan ignorante como soy. Y vaya si he dado con un libro perfecto, uno que ha superado con mucho mis humildes expectativas. Además es un libro que viene con película, y la película es Buena!!!......Que pena haya escrito tan poco este señor, dueño de una maestría narrativa que no enviaría nada de don Hemingway por ejemplo. No quiero dejar de mencionar que por años, en distintos viajes por el oeste de los Estados Unidos, mientras manejaba por carreteras bordeada por ríos y montañas deslumbrantes, solía ver con el mayor desinterés, casi como si fueran invisibles, a los aburridos pescadores con mosca. Huelga decir que de hoy en adelante, al terminar El Rio De La Vida, mi opinión acerca de esa actividad ha dado un giro del 360 grados ganando todo mi respeto y admiración.

Kyle Johnson

187 reviews25 followers

January 24, 2021

"It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us."

"My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things--trout as well as eternal salvation--come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy."

This short story or novella was really a treat. On the surface, probably 75% of it is about fly fishing, which I know nothing about. The fly fishing accounts, though, are really used to riff on family relationships, natural beauty, and even religion. I was struck especially by the relationship between the two brothers and how they uniquely related to their parents. The setting in Montana, the religious musings, and the author's subtle humor were also highlights for me.

    2021-books-read annual-top-10 bcwf

Vince Snow

236 reviews18 followers

June 7, 2018

Really incredible book about family and nature. I thought it had powerful themes about how hard it is to help people:

Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them — we can love completely without complete understanding.


Matthew Emery

20 reviews

July 3, 2023

Every single time I read this book, I realize it’s more perfect than I thought. The writing is beautiful. The description of fly fishing somehow makes you feel you’re the one fishing. Maclean also used fishing and trying to be in the mind of a fish to communicate our inability, as hard as we try, to truly understand those we love and want to help the most. The story resonates deeply, and there’s a reason I try to read it every year.


Author86 books269 followers

October 15, 2018

At its best it touches the pure poetry of existence that Hemingway touched.


114 reviews2 followers

April 9, 2024

4.75 stars

I absolutely loved this book. It was vivid and vibrant and beautiful and emotional and all the things that make classical literature wonderful. There isn't one perfect example of a book; every book is unique and wonderful in its own way. For what it was, this one was amazing.

    classical-novels honors-language-24-23 my-owned-books

Eddy S.

72 reviews21 followers

September 30, 2023

Bon, apparemment cette novella nature writing sur la pêche à la mouche est l'une de mes meilleures lectures de l'année.



1,542 reviews99 followers

June 30, 2023

5 Stars for A River Runs Through It (audiobook) by Norman Maclean read by Ivan Doig.

This really brought back a lot of memories for me of fishing with my dad. The fishing was different, it was at a lake in a boat in Arizona but the life lessons and focus were similar.

    audiobooks biography non-fiction


124 reviews51 followers

November 15, 2015

Một câu chuyện đẹp. Dọc suốt truyện là miêu tả sinh động về những dòng sông, kinh nghiệm câu cá lồng ghép trong tình yêu thương dành cho người em trai và tình cảm gia đình truyền thống. Tình tiết truyện không quá gay cấn, đặc sắc nhưng vẫn để lại ấn tượng với những câu văn đẹp đến say lòng người, dù là với những người không hề biết câu. Giọng văn rất trầm lắng, như trôi xuôi theo dòng ký ức cũng như theo dòng chảy êm đềm của những con sông, trôi mãi, trôi mãi vào vô tận...

A River Runs through It (2024)


What is the main point of a river that runs through it? ›

A River Runs Through is a cinematographically stunning true story of Norman Maclean. The story follows Norman and his brother Paul through the experiences of life and growing up, and how their love of fly fishing keeps them together despite varying life circ*mstances in the untamed west of Montana in the 1920's.

What is a famous quote from the movie A River Runs Through It? ›

Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding.

What is the message of A River Runs Through It? ›

The Big Idea of A River Runs Through It

Maclean's novella is about more than fly fishing. It's about family and about living with and loving those who elude us.

What was Norman's father's philosophy? ›

My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things—trout as well as eternal salvation—come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy. Rhythm was just as important as color and just as complicated.

What happens to Paul at the end of A River Runs Through It? ›

In the movie, Paul is found dead in an alley in Montana, likely beaten to death over unpaid gambling debts. In reality, he was beaten to death in a backstreet in Chicago. The killer was never caught. Home Waters lovingly paints fishing as passion and metaphor.

What happens to Brad Pitt in the movie A River Runs Through It? ›

Fans of A River Runs Through It, and particularly those of the movie adaptation, will find intrigue in Maclean's investigation into the death of his uncle. In the film, Paul — played by a young Brad Pitt — is beaten to death in Montana.

What does the ending of a river run through it mean? ›

Norman reflects on his life—and his many losses—as he fishes alone at the story's end. The "one" into which all things merge is now the eternity that he faces as a man near the end of his life. The river that runs through it now represents life itself.

What is the last line in A River Runs Through It? ›

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.

Was a river run through it a true story? ›

A River Runs Through It is a 1992 American drama film directed by Robert Redford, and starring Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt, Brenda Blethyn and Emily Lloyd. It is based on the 1976 semi-autobiographical novella A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean, adapted for the screen by Richard Friedenberg.

Is a river run through it religious? ›

In A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, Norman and Paul Maclean are raised by a Presbyterian minister father (Tom Skerritt) who taught them their schoolwork, religion, and fly fishing as though they were all one subject; all were taught strictly and thoroughly.

Why does Norman Bowker go into the lake? ›

Through his symbolic wading into the lake and putting his head under and tasting the water, readers understand that Bowker sort of died in Vietnam and cannot recover because he cannot find meaning in his life after the war.

Why is Norman disappointed with O'Brien's short story? ›

In ''Notes,'' we learn that Norman has written to the author, Tim O'Brien, in a desperate attempt to communicate his story. He wants Tim to write Norman's story. Tim does write the story but changes several things and doesn't include the part about Kiowa's death. This is gravely disappointing to Norman.

What is the main plot of a river that runs through it? ›

Two sons of a stern minister - one reserved, one rebellious - grow up in rural 1920s Montana while devoted to fly fishing. Two sons of a stern minister - one reserved, one rebellious - grow up in rural 1920s Montana while devoted to fly fishing.

What point of view is A River Runs Through It? ›

A River Runs Through It is told from the first-person point of view by the author Norman Maclean, a retired college professor. The novella is closely based on Maclean's own family's story.

What is the main purpose of a river? ›

Benefits of Rivers. Rivers provide important benefits—called ecosystem services—that impact our day-to-day lives. They provide drinking water, irrigation, transportation, and more. They also provide habitat for important fish species.

Does a river run through it have a happy ending? ›

In the end, the eldest son stands along in the river where so much was learned and you can sense his anguish at what he has lost during the course of his life. The final lines of the film pretty much sum it up. "In the end, all things run together into one, and a river runs through it.


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