A nominee for the National Book Award, Ivan Doig's brilliant memoir shares the experiences and culture that shaped his early years and made him fall in love with the West. From his childhood in a family of homesteaders through the death of his mother and his move to Montana to herd sheep, Doig shows his intimate connection with the American West.
©1978 Ivan Doig; (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC
This was my first audio version though I have enjoyed reading the books of Ivan Doig for many years. Most of his books take place in the Montana of early to mid-20th century and are as strange and fascinating for me as the stories of medieval knights. They bring me the kind of pleasure that I felt as a child reading the "Little House" books, but with much more mature themes and very beautiful, often poetic language.
I think Tom Stechschulte does a very good job of reading with a natural but flat drawl that I associate with this region of the country and with an earlier and slower time. This particular book is interesting because it describes Doig's journey in becoming a writer. It is a tribute to his parents and grandparents and to the way of life that his family for generations had known. This way of life had already begun to disappear at the time this book was written and Doig was conscious of chronicling the end of an era in this work. He taped his father's and grandmother's recollections as he progressed, knowing these were memories that held in them a way of life that was disappearing. I was sometimes surprised when modern technology shows its face in a book filled with stories that could not have been much different a hundred years before. The challenges faced, hard weather and stubborn animals, are eternal and help to make the stories timeless and yet there is an aspect of them very bound by time since few Americans today grow up with a childhood like this one that occurred not much before most of us were children.
I think the emotion in the stories, the connection between the family members who spend a lot of time struggling with one another as well as with nature is another reason I enjoyed the memoir. It demonstrates an intense but unsentimental bond I found very appealing. The stories recount Doig's memories of his life with his father after his mother died, from the age of 6 or 7 until college and Doig's burgeoning conscience of his rejection of this life.
When his father becomes ill his maternal grandmother joins the journey and the three of end up together -more or less- and the stories of their isolated, hard working lives driving sheep and repairing fences, working in the shadow of awesome mountains and catastrophes make for fascinating reading most of the time. There are a few stories where the memoir slows down in the middle - where the fact that this is Doig's first full length book becomes evident, but that is a small price to pay for this very engaging memoir and story of Montana. Doig's use of language and investigation of memory also distinguish this memoirs from those of many less talented writers that seem to appear more and more frequently these days. Highly recommended for readers who appreciate beautiful writing and stories of other way of life.
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