Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Review: This House of Sky – Landscapes of a Western Mind
I just returned from a quick trip to mid-twentieth century Montana. The vehicle? Ivan Doig’s 1978 memoir “This House of Sky.”
Mr. Doig’s enchantment with the land and the work grounded thereon is exceeded only by his appreciation of family. Doig’s father, Charlie, wed a woman much younger than he. Tragically, only a few years after Ivan’s birth, she dies. Her mother, after a time, comes to live with the bachelor pair, forming a unique family unit with uncommon stresses and uncommon devotion.
Ivan Doig recounts the hopscotch life of a ranch foreman (his father) across Montana’s landscape of ferocious beauty and through towns the map has long forgotten. Doig tells of his times summering with sheep in high meadows (catch the rescue efforts during an unseasonal storm to realize it ain’t all that bucolic all the time), rooming in town with, essentially, strangers, because that’s what had to be done while attending school, and wrestling with the conflict of honoring his Dad’s legacy and life and turning away from it for a university education and the potential of better tomorrows. Along the way, we are introduced to a cavalcade of characters that will come to populate much of Doig’s fiction.
This is a touching, evolutionary tale set in a past kids my age still remember. It is a book that, once again, once I finished it, I didn’t pick up another for a few days, simply so I could savor the story and its telling.
See your local, independent bookseller.
“This House of Sky – Landscapes of a Western Mind” Ivan Doig. 1978, 1998. $14.95.
Church of the Open Road Press