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Initial reviews of the book ran to both extremes, but its reputation has aged well. Charles Bowden calls it "one of the few essential books written by an American in the last half century." It is widely considered among the masterpieces of Western American literature. In 1997, a panel of Northwest writers voted it number one in a list of "12 Essential Northwest Works". One book critic has described it as "what may well be the quintessential Northwest novel".