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Work Songby Ivan Doig
From the moment Morgan steps off the train and discovers that the trunk holding all his worldly possessions is missing — and that the stationmaster thinks it's just a ruse — this story, about a man who can't escape his past yet longs for a chance at a future, is both intriguing and satisfying. Work Song is Doig's exploration (oh, the temptation to write excavation) of yet another chapter of Montana's history — this time copper mining in Butte. Doig starts with an inspired cast of characters that you can't help but root for, flavors it with some highfalutin book learning (one bit of Morgan's past that serves him surprisingly well in Butte), tosses in a few surprises, and mixes it with all the mud, grime, and crime of a frontier town. And you don't have to have read his prior book, The Whistling Season, to enjoy every minute of this one.
Synopses & Reviews
An award-winning and beloved novelist of the American West spins the further adventures of a favorite character, in one of his richest historical settings yet.
"If America was a melting pot, Butte would be its boiling point," observes Morrie Morgan, the itinerant teacher, walking encyclopedia, and inveterate charmer last seen leaving a one-room schoolhouse in Marias Coulee, the stage he stole in Ivan Doig's 2006 The Whistling Season. A decade later, Morrie is back in Montana, as the beguiling narrator of Work Song.
Lured like so many others by "the richest hill on earth," Morrie steps off the train in Butte, copper-mining capital of the world, in its jittery heyday of 1919. But while riches elude Morrie, once again a colorful cast of local characters — and their dramas — seek him out: a look-alike, sound-alike pair of retired Welsh miners; a streak-of-lightning waif so skinny that he is dubbed Russian Famine; a pair of mining company goons; a comely landlady propitiously named Grace; and an eccentric boss at the public library, his whispered nickname a source of inexplicable terror. When Morrie crosses paths with a lively former student, now engaged to a fiery young union leader, he is caught up in the mounting clash between the iron-fisted mining company, radical "outside agitators," and the beleaguered miners. And as tensions above ground and below reach the explosion point, Morrie finds a unique way to give a voice to those who truly need one.
"Doig affectionately revisits Morris 'Morrie' Morgan from the much-heralded The Whistling Season. Now, 10 years later, in 1919, Morrie lands in Butte, Mont., beholding the area's natural beauty that 'made a person look twice.' Scoring a job is a top priority, as is getting more face time with Grace Faraday, the alluring widow who runs the boardinghouse where he stays. Things, naturally, are complicated, as the fiendishly bookish Morrie is on the run from Chicago gangsters who feel they've been duped after he scored a windfall from a fixed sports wager. The local 'shysters' at the duplicitous Anaconda Copper Mining Company, meanwhile, find Morrie's sudden interest in Butte highly suspicious as they try to bully Grace into selling her property. Morrie lands what might be an ideal job working at the public library with ex — cattle rancher Samuel Sandison, though our sturdy narrator must choose sides when the mining company ups the ante. Drama ebbs and flows as Morrie yields to the plight of union leader Jared Evans, and Morrie and Samuel come to terms with sins from their pasts. Charismatic dialogue and charming, homespun characterization make Doig's latest another surefire winner. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In the spirit of The Bartenders Tale, a lively and poignant coming-of-age story about a boy and his great-uncle on a cross-country odyssey.
Donal Cameron is being raised by his grandmother, the cook at the legendary Double W ranch in Doigs beloved Two Medicine Country of the Montana Rockies, a landscape that gives full rein to an eleven-year-olds imagination. But when Gram has to have surgery for female trouble” in the summer of 1951, all she can think to do is to ship Donal off to her sister in faraway Manitowoc, Wisconsin. There Donal is in for a rude surprise: Aunt Katebossy, opinionated, argumentative, and tyrannical—is nothing like her sister. She henpecks her good-natured husband, Herman the German (as Donal discovers him to be), and Donal cant seem to get on her good side either. After one contretemps too many, Kate decides to pack him back to the authorities in Montana on the next Greyhound.
But to Donals surprise, hes not traveling solo: Herman the German has decided to fly the coop with him. In the immortal American tradition, the pair light out for the territory together, meeting a classic Doigian ensemble of characters and having rollicking misadventures along the way. Charming, wise, and slyly funny, Last Bus to Wisdom is another treasure of a novel from the best storyteller of the West.
"[A] novel that best expresses the American spirit." The Chicago Tribune
If America was a melting pot, Butte seemed to be its boiling point,” observes Morrie Morgan, the itinerant teacher and inveterate charmer who stole readers hearts in The Whistling Season. A decade later, he steps off the train and into the copper mining capital of the world in its jittery 1919 heyday. While the riches of the Richest Hill on Earth” may elude him, once again a colorful cast of local characters seek him out. Before long, Morrie is caught up in the clash between the ironfisted Anaconda Mining Company, radical outside agitators,” and the beleaguered miners. As tensions build aboveground and below, Morrie finds a unique way to give a voice to those who truly need one, and Ivan Doig proves yet again why hes reigning king of Western fiction.
About the Author
Ivan Doig was born in Montana and grew up along the Rocky Mountain Front, the dramatic landscape that has inspired much of his writing. A former ranch hand, newspaperman, and magazine editor, with a Ph.D. in history, Doig is the author of nine previous novels, most recently The Whistling Season and The Eleventh Man, and three works of nonfiction, including his classic first book, the memoir This House of Sky. He has been a National Book Award finalist and has received the Wallace Stegner Award, a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Western Literature Association, and multiple PNBA and MPBA Book Awards, among other honors. He lives in Seattle.
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