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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.)
"[A] novel that best expresses the American spirit." Chicago Tribune
"As enjoyable and subtly thought-provoking a piece of fiction as you're likely to pick up this summer. It's a book that can be appreciated just for the quality of the prose and the author's adherence to the sturdy conventions of old-fashioned narrative or for Doig's sly gloss on Western genre fiction and unforced evocation of our current condition — or, better yet, for all those things...One of this novel's pleasures is the rich cast of secondary characters Doig effortlessly sketches into his narrative...a pleasure to read." The Los Angeles Times
"A classic tale from the heyday of American capitalism by the king of the Western novel." The Daily Beast (Hot Reads)
"Entertaining for its rich historical take on the town of Butte...and for its evocative descriptions." Bookpage E-Newsletter
"A genuinely sweet book by a writer who is generous to his characters and readers alike...start to finish Morrie proves a character in the best sense of the word...He's awfully good company...a character with whom it's a pleasure to pass the time no matter the scenery." Missoula Independent
"Spirited ...Doig, a consummate entertainer, always shows the reader a good time." The Dallas Morning News
"Not one stitch unravels in this intricately threaded narrative ... infectious." The New York Times Book Review
"The most tumultous, quirky, and fascinating city in the American West of the last century has finally found a storyteller equal to its stories....Ivan Doig brings to life the core of humanity, and a hell of cast, amidst the shadows and sorrows of Butte, Montana — a city that could say it never slept well before New York made a similar claim." Tim Egan, author of The Last Hard Time and The Big Burn
About the Author
Ivan Doig was born in Montana and grew up along the Rocky Mountain Front. A former ranch hand, newspaperman, and magazine editor, with a Ph.D. in history, Doig is the author of ten novels and three works of nonfiction, including the classic memoir This House of Sky.
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