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This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western…

This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind (1978)

by Ivan Doig

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    A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean (browner56)
    browner56: Elegiac and beautifully written memoirs of growing up in Montana at the beginning of the last century.

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Ivan Doig's maternal grandparents had never been fond of their daughter marrying the freewheeling ranch hand Charlie Doig. Their frail daughter had fought with a childhood of ailments and they felt that Charlie didn't have much of a future monetarily.

Young love prevailed and the two were married.

Unfortunately, one of young Ivan's first memories at six years old was that of his mother dying from asthma.

It was left to Charlie Doig to provide a future for his son from the often meager funds of a cowboy and ranch hand and as a single father.

After a failed marriage trying to provide his son with a mother, he eventually approached his widowed mother-in-law, Bessie Ringer, to live with them. Bessie and Charlie had open suspicion and downright dislike between them, but they were united in their love for Ivan, and their commitment to him.

This is a story of growing up in the 40's and 50's on ranches in Montana; where money was scarce, but family feelings were strong.

As always, Doig's prose is beautiful and compelling. Beautiful word-pictures of the Montana landscape, family life and Doig's realization that he was meant to be a writer. ( )
  streamsong | Aug 21, 2018 |
Ivan Doig is my wife's favorite author. I'm certain she's read every one of his books, and there have been several. And since he lives in our area, she has taken me along several times to listen to him read from his new work as it came out. As a result, I tried to read one of his fictional books some time back and immediately ran into what seems a trait of Doig, a trait of starting the reader out with an avalanche of descriptive text. To me, it feels like a lifetime to work through a single paragraph. So I gave up. This book was no different, but (1) it was nonfiction, and (2) it was perhaps his most highly regarded book, so I persevered. It was very good I did. True, this is a memoir, a man telling about his life growing up in rural Montana, a place that could just as well have been Turkey or the Australian outback, as far as the typical American would think. So, yes, there's an element of travel adventure to it. (There are a number of very memorable scenes.) Ultimately, however, this is Doig's reflection on the complex dynamics that constitute a family, no matter how "normal" or out of the ordinary it may seem. After the initial descriptive flood, Doig settles into a flow of seeing life to which the reader can easily relate, no matter how foreign it may be at first glance. Each scene, each setting flows so well from one stage of his life to another, the reader moves through the years without hesitation. At some point, as the author's life takes him away from the reader's home base of Montana, Doig's writing style changes. As Doig is now in college (Northwestern University), the writing abruptly switches to a series of brief tales, often one not at all related to the other. And just as I'm starting to tell myself that I do not appreciate this loss of narrative flow, Doig pulls out some of most moving narrative I have ever read, a narrative that could never have had the impact it had without all that had gone before, with all of the patience that Doig had brought to bear to get us to that point. I was so moved by the writing at that point, that I found myself reading it to my wife, the true Doig disciple. Doig soon returns to his flowing style and takes us to the eventual end of his childhood family. It was a journey well worth taking. ( )
  larryerick | Apr 26, 2018 |
Whistling Season is one of my all time favorite books and it was the first Ivan Doig book I read. Over the years I have read many more of his books and I just finished The House of Sky. It has moved ahead of Whistling Season! Such an amazing telling of Ivan's life and that of his ancestors and so beautifully written. Loved this book! ( )
  carolfoisset | Aug 22, 2017 |
Doig’s memoir reads like a stunning love letter to the great expanses of Montana and the unique souls it is home to. Painstakingly compiled journal entries, memories, and stories from his now departed father and grandmother, This House of Sky is both poetically gorgeous and heart wrenching. From the early death of his mother to an unpredictable childhood spent ranch hopping with his emotionally damaged sheepherding father to coping as an adult with his father’s downward slide from emphysema, Doig recounts his own youth and that of his father in an honest and unsympathetic, yet honorable way. Stunning imagery of pioneer-era Montana and the changes its ranches have undergone offers an unforgettable backdrop to Doig’s moving literary dedication to his father. ( )
  GennaC | May 9, 2017 |
This memoir was completed in 1978,a few years after Doig lost two of the most important people in his life, his father and his maternal grandmother, who raised him together after his mother died when he was six years old. They are the stars of the story, but Ivan himself figures very prominently in it, as it tells of his own young life under the rugged conditions of mid-20th century Montana ranching and sheep-herding. It is easy to see the seeds of his novels in his own upbringing--and what a harvest he made of it. Doig's gift with the language is priceless...he just drops golden sentences all over the pages, and makes it seem effortless and utterly un-self-conscious. I'm convinced that he talked exactly as he wrote, and that he would have been just as much of a joy to listen to as he is to read. Five stars. ( )
1 vote laytonwoman3rd | Jul 25, 2016 |
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"for Stan
from my house of sky to yours"
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Soon before daybreak on my sixth birthday, my mother's breathing wheezed more raggedly than ever, then quieted. And then stopped.
I glance higher for some hint of the weather, and the square of air broadens and broadens to become the blue expanse over Montana rangeland, so vast and vaulting that it rears, from the foundation-line of the plains horizon, to form the walls and roof of all life’s experience that my younger self could imagine, a single great house of sky.
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Book description
Masterfully crafted with lyrical and haunting language, Doig's memoir remains an enduring classic, a story to be savored by anyone who has ever loved a parent or been shaped by the land around them. This House of Sky is the moving chronicle of Ivan Doig's youth growing up in Montana. At age six, his mother died, leaving his father, rancher and cowboy, Charlie Doig, and maternal grandmother, the stalwart Bessie Ringer, to raise him. Times were hard; work was difficult; poverty always shadowed them. But drawing on their strong love and gritty determination, they find the strength to withstand these difficult circumstances. They are, Doig reflects, relics of an earlier time and a different lifestyle—uncomplaining, unquestioning, accepting the western land with all its hardships and beauty. 336
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156899825, Paperback)

A haunting, magnificently written memoir by Ivan Doig about growing up in the American West


Ivan Doig grew up in the rugged wilderness of western Montana among the sheepherders and denizens of small-town saloons and valley ranches. What he deciphers from his past with piercing clarity is not only a raw sense of land and how it shapes us but also of the ties to our mothers and fathers, to those who love us, and our inextricable connection to those who shaped our values in our search for intimacy, independence, love, and family. A powerfully told story, This House of Sky is at once especially American and universal in its ability to awaken a longing for an explicable past.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:49 -0400)

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Autobiography of a newspaperman and editor who grew up in the wilderness of Montana.

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