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Heart Earth by Ivan Doig

Heart Earth (1993)

by Ivan Doig

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A lovely book. Doig used the few letters from his mother to her brother, his sketchy memories from before he was six, and probably some family stories and research to come up with this story about his mother. Touching, inspiring, poignant, and beautiful writing. A very good picture of life in extremely rural America during WWII, although that is not the focus, just a circumstance. ( )
  MrsLee | Dec 1, 2016 |
Ivan Doig was surprised by his inheritance from his Uncle Wally in 1986. The packet of letters written by his beloved mother, Berneta, to her youngest brother in the last year of her short life was now his, 41 years after her death. They were the link to his past that he barely remembered--his fifth year of life lived in the Arizona desert and on a sheep ranch in Montana. Berneta died in the wee hours of Ivan's 6th birthday of an overworked heart due to her frequent and severe asthma attacks. No one in the family ever "got over" her death. Ivan's memories were sketchy but he wrote that the family was "pierced by my mother's death in the mountain cabin." The letters gave him details of their everyday life so he could piece together their last year and write this wonderful tribute to his mother.

I can't imagine receiving such a touching gift. In reading his mother's words, Ivan discovered where his love for writing came from. He cleverly used this window to his past by quoting both from the letters and from the logbook of the destroyer USS Ault where Uncle Wally served in the last years of WWII. The juxtaposition of war stories and ranch stories was jarring, but it added context to Doig's early years. For those of us who read and loved This House of Sky, Doig's memoir of his later childhood, this prequel gives us a better understanding of Ivan's closeness to his mother.

The winter the young Doig family spent in Arizona was so interesting. Ivan's father proved he would do anything for his young wife. Berneta writes to Wally: I always thought a desert was just nothing, but I have changed my mind. It is really beautiful here, in the desert way… When the young family's desert experiment was over and they returned to Montana, they all learned that this would be their forever home..."What can account for my mother's high spirits at being back in that drafty mousy attic of Montana, the mile-up-and-then-some Big Belt country where sour winter stayed on past the spring dance? …Earth and Heart don't have much of a membrane between them. Sometimes decided on grounds as elusive as that simple transposable h, this matter of siting ourselves. Of a place mysteriously insisting itself into us." (Pg. 80)

Do yourself a favor and spend an afternoon or evening reading this remarkable book by and about a beloved Montana author. ( )
3 vote Donna828 | Oct 7, 2016 |
I love the way Ivan Doig writes, lyrically and concisely evoking a whole world of feeling; he sees such humor, poetry, and intensity in each moment and place. Somehow he notices everything.. A sweet, sad, funny memoir of his childhood and his mother. ( )
  Connie-D | Jan 17, 2016 |
This installment of Ivan Doig's autobiographical stories of life in Montana is one of his shortest books. Doig's prose, eloquent as ever, is focused on his mother, Berneta, who died when he was young. As I work my way through Doig's books I feel that I am connecting more and more to his family, his life in Montana, and his prose. Fascinating! ( )
  hemlokgang | Jan 9, 2016 |
Very interesting memoir told in an interesting and unusual fashion. Ivan's mother died when he had just turned 6 years of age. As time moved on his memories of her were pretty dim. Much later in life he was bequeathed a collection of letters upon the death of his Uncle Wally. These were letters that his mother had written to her brother who served on a navy destroyer. Together with Ivan's own memories and historical knowledge he recreates and shows us the hardships of the early and WWII home-front life they went through. We know that Ivan's mother dies, but when it happens it is a sudden shock.

Besides the immediate family, we also learn a little about Uncle Wally. Uncle Wally bequeathed the cache of letters to Ivan when he died and that eventually became the basis for this memoir as the author recreates that time. Wally is serving in the Pacific on the USS Ault, a destroyer in the Pacific. Little missives are included from Wally's letters through the book. Then we come to the Battle of Okinawa when the Japanese filled the skies with Kamikazes. An entry from the Ault's log describes two kamikazes slamming into the nearby carrier "Bunker Hill", causing many hundreds of casualties. It really affected me as a reader.

This is a short book and a fairly quick read. I really liked this a lot. It stirs one's soul a bit. The language in here is kind of fun to chew on. I haven't read one of Doig's novels in a long time. I need to work on that. ( )
  RBeffa | Nov 30, 2014 |
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Intervals of dreaming help us to stand up under days of work - Pablo Neruda, Memoirs.
For Carol Doig, Linda Bierds and Sydney Kaplan when we traveled the Montana heart and perimeter, and won at electronic poker, too.
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Dear Wally - ...I shouldn't even be writing you my troubles but I have to spill over to someone.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156031086, Paperback)

Ivan Doig grew up with only a vague memory of his mother, Berneta, who died on his sixth birthday. Then he discovered a cache of her letters--and through them, a spunky, passionate, can-do woman as at home in the saddle as behind a sewing machine, and as in love with language as Doig would prove to be. In this moving prequel to his acclaimed memoir This House of Sky, Doig brings to life his childhood before his mother's death and the family's journey from the Montana mountains to the Arizona desert and back again. He eloquently captures the texture of the American West during and after World War II, the fortune of a family, and one woman's indomitable spirit.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:08 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Ivan Doig's prequel to his memoir "This house of sky" highlights his childhood before his mother's death and captures the texture of the American West, the fortunes of a family, and one woman's indomitable spirit.

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