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English Creek (1984)

by Ivan Doig

Series: McCaskill Trilogy (1)

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6551627,850 (4.14)104
This novel revolves around Jick McCaskill, a 14-year-old growing up in 1930s Montana. This incandescent coming-of-age tale dramatizes the climatic events of one summer that inevitably mark Jick's awakening from childhood to adulthood.
  1. 00
    The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These leisurely paced, character-driven coming-of-age stories are charmingly narrated by adolescent boys who observe their families during difficult, changing times. Through rich use of dialect and lovingly evoked natural settings, both novels convey a strong sense of place.… (more)

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English (15)  Spanish (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
This is a coming-of-age story set in Depression-era Montana. It’s the first published book, though in chronological order it is book two, in Doig’s Two Medicine Trilogy, which chronicles the McCaskill family over several generations. Jick McCaskill tells the story of his youth, focusing on the summer of 1939, when he was fourteen, and his family faced some challenges: “where all four of our lives made their bend.”

Doig really puts the reader into the era and landscape of this novel. The sky is vast, the landscape majestic, the weather sometimes brutal, and the dangers – both natural and manmade – palpable.

Jick is a keen observer, if sometimes perplexed. I love his descriptions of various events – accompanying his father as he “counts” the sheep, helping a wounded camp tender, tasting his first alcohol, enjoying the Fourth of July town picnic and rodeo. And I love how he’s so “consumed” by food. This boy is ALWAYS hungry! He’s also curious and continues to question those around him trying to ferret out the information he needs to piece together the puzzle that is his family’s history. He’s young enough that he still feels “responsible” for many things that happen, and consequently naïve enough to think he can affect the outcome with a well-chosen word.

There were times when Doig’s work made me think on my own father, and how he taught us love of the land and nature. That made the book all the more enjoyable for me. ( )
  BookConcierge | Apr 7, 2020 |
This is listed as No.1 in Doig's McCaskill trilogy, but I believe that Dancing at the Rascal Fair is first in chronological, if not publication, order. One hot summer in the Montana mountains is featured here, as the narrator recalls how he spent the last "free" season before Europe erupted in a second World War, and big changes came to his family. This is a dense rich story, of a boy learning to be a man; working with his father, a member of the US Forest Service--counting sheep herds, provisioning remote camps, worrying through fire season and playing flunky to the cook at a tense fire-fighters' camp--and with his rancher uncle during a month of cutting, raking and stacking the winter's supply of hay. Along the way, he finds he can be as resourceful as the environment requires, and through his own persistence, also learns some things about his family's past that the adults have been inclined to keep buried. ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Aug 28, 2019 |
After reading this author's excellent autobiographical, This House of Sky, I was immediately struck at the beginning of reading this book by how difficult it was for me to distinguish between the "true" non-fiction work and this fictional narrative. Both books deal with rural Montana and its life in livestock and the like. I rarely have trouble sorting out fiction and non-fiction, primarily because fiction writers, even when trying not to be fantasty-like in any way, still tend to eventually reach those points in the narrative where you can feel the author manipulating the course of events for effect. Non-fiction, assuming it isn't obviously biased, is not being manipulated by the author. No matter how unlikely an event may seem to the non-fiction reader, those supposedly strange twists in events are always true. This author makes even his fictional lives ring very real. Having said that, at some point in my reading, I realized I had transitioned from a nearly non-fiction fictional tale to just a great, engaging yarn. I found myself savoring the book in small proportions to extend my enjoyment. I look forward to the second installment in the author's Montana centennial McCaskill trilogy. ( )
  larryerick | Apr 26, 2018 |
This is just a beautiful book. It is not profound. It's a very nice family story - Jick, almost 15 years old, is trying to figure out why his dad and Stanley have such tricky relationship. That's enough of a puzzle to keep the story moving. But this is not a novel driven by plot, or by political or philosophical issues. It is a panorama of ranch life in Montana. Haying, shepherding, fighting fires, a 4th of July picnic and dance. The story is just a framework on which to hang a rich tapestry of place and lifestyle. ( )
1 vote kukulaj | Mar 5, 2018 |
I LOVED The Last Bus to Wisdom and although this has a similar tone to it, it didn't resonate as much. Another coming of age story, this is about 15 year old Jake who is growing up in Montana during the 1930's. The beauty behind this story is the description of the setting. The country is suffering from the Depression and even the sheep and cattle farmers in Montana are struggling. Jake's father is a forest ranger and the whole concept of National Parks is relatively new. I definitely enjoyed reliving a piece of that part of history. But the story, although sweet, was a bit slow and although the characters are quirky and interesting, there wasn't that much growth. But, if you are looking for a quiet gentle read, this might be it. ( )
  jmoncton | Jan 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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"You got to make your way in this old pig iron world."
--Miss Rose Gordon (1885-1968)
Again for Carol
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That month of June swam into the Two Medicine country.
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This novel revolves around Jick McCaskill, a 14-year-old growing up in 1930s Montana. This incandescent coming-of-age tale dramatizes the climatic events of one summer that inevitably mark Jick's awakening from childhood to adulthood.

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