I finished this novel last night, and it's still haunting me. I grew to care so much for the characters that I wanted more of a definite ending than Stegner gave me. It seems to be generally considered a story of "forgiveness and redemption," but I see it as more ambiguous than that. It was certainly worth the Pulitzer--for the evocative glimpses of Americana, if nothing else--and I'd recommend it to (other) English majors, but only with the caveat that they be prepared for long stretches of depressing plot development with no clear-cut resolution at the end.
This is one of those books which is rich in complexity without being a difficult read. A must read for lovers of the west and the ambiguities of love and relationships. Stegner manages to take a story of a couple during the settling of the west and make it relevant to the life of their grandson, a retired and disabled historian living out his lonely life in their old home. A real book...one which is alive with truth and the sad surprises of living.
A beautifully written book. One of my favorites.