Wallace Stegner was a very meditative writer. This, I think, is why some people have a hard time getting through his books. There's a lot of rumination on the part of the characters, while the plot sits on the back burner. With some authors this drives me crazy, but with Stegner I somehow have the patience to stay with the writing and savor it. I think it's because he articulated so many truths and feelings I've personally experienced. He handled difficult themes in such a soft way, with the perfect combination of intellect and heart.All the Little Live Things and The Spectator Bird are companion novels about Joe Allston, a retired literary agent who has moved to California with his wife Ruth. It doesn't matter which book is read first. The two books complement each other and fill in the blanks as needed. The only characters that are constants are Joe and Ruth, and the painful memory of their son Curtis, whose life and death still haunts them. If you need to be strictly chronological, then read All the Little Live Things first.