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Bucking the Sun Hardcover – May 6, 1996


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (May 6, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684811715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684811710
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #613,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As in This House of Sky and Ride With Me, Mariah Montana, Doig returns to Big Sky country to tell a complex murder mystery peppered with the free-spirit history of the west and the intrigue of Doig's Scottish ancestry. Through Franklin Roosevelt's W.P.A. and P.W.A., the Duff family becomes involved in the construction of the Fort Peck Dam, the largest earth-fill dam in the world. While most are happy for the work, there are others in the Duff clan that hope for the dam's failure. Mixing fact and fiction, Doig explores the hardships of labor, of Fort Peck's shantytown housing, and the Duffs' resilience to everything from Montana blizzards to rattlesnakes. When two in the clan are murdered, Scottish family loyalty is questioned and the remaining family members face their toughest challenge.

From Publishers Weekly

As in Doig's Montana trilogy (Dancing at the Rascal Fair, etc.), here American history forms the vivid backdrop for a flinty family drama. Once again, a group of hardheaded, Scotch-descended Montanans struggle with each other and with nature, this time during the building of the Fort Peck Dam from 1933 to 1938. Hugh Duff hasn't spoken to his eldest son, Owen, since the young man abandoned the family farm to study engineering. Owen is hired to oversee Fort Peck's earth fill just as his father learns that the dam will flood their fields. Hugh simmers, but his wife, Meg, and their twin sons, reckless Bruce and sensible Neil, are happy to get jobs on the New Deal project, though Neil asserts his independence by "bucking the sun" (driving into its head-on rays) for his after-hours trucking business. The brothers' wives-Owen's socially ambitious Charlene; her sister Rosellen, an aspiring writer married to Neil; and Bruce's terse, tough-minded Kate-increase the volatility of the Duff family mix of love and loyalty tempering profound differences of personality and belief. Among the other well-drawn characters is Hugh's Marxist brother Darious, a striking portrait of political extremism. Doig's trademark, minutely detailed evocations of physical labor are present here, as is a bravura description of a disastrous collapse of the unfinished dam. The novel is more plot-heavy than Doig's previous work: the mysterious deaths that bookend the main story are contrived, and the narrative often whipsaws among various Duffs. Not quite as magical as English Creek, but much better than the sketchy Ride with Me, Mariah Montana, this is still vintage Doig. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Ivan Doig is the author of ten previous books. Seven are novels, including English Creek and Dancing at the Rascal Fair, and three are nonfiction, including the highly acclaimed memoir This House of Sky, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. A former ranch hand, newspaperman, and magazine editor, Doig holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington. He lives in Seattle.

Customer Reviews

I just did not like this book as much as I had hoped to.
Steven Greene
The characters in this novel are well described and true to the character of Montanans.
Cassius F. Whitehill
I felt that many of the characters were not as developed as they could have been.
Therese Kerfoot

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
Despite the claims of some of the misleading reviews (including the Editorial review at the top of this page) this is not a murder mystery in any way. Yes, two of the characters do perish, as is revealed in the first chapter of the novel (which is not in chronological order with the rest), but this plays an absolutely minimal role in the story. While the question of who ultimately perishes does linger in the back of your mind while Doig relates the multi-faceted story of the Duff family, this is not a tale of a family coping with death. This is truly an epic story which combines interesting, developed, and, most of all, distinct characters with an extraodinarily well described setting- an enormous New Deal project and accompanying lively shantytown set amidst grand natural scenery. The result is a novel which anyone (though especially someone with an interest in or affinity for the American West) should thoroughly enjoy.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Steven Greene on September 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
I just did not like this book as much as I had hoped to. Doig writes wonderfully and he has a terrific sense of character and setting, but all too often the story lacked a sense of direction. The murder subplot seemed hardly more than an afterthought and I thought the book would have been much improved had it been more fully incorporated. I find the construction of dams very interesting, so I was really looking forward to learning about them while enjoying the story, but it did not work. I think the problem others have with the focus on the dam is that Doig never actually explains its construction in clear, understandable detail, a la Crichton. Its always just bits and pieces that never fit with a coherent whole. In sum, good, definitely not great.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Charlie A Allen on December 31, 2002
Format: Paperback
Ivan Doig, as usual, writes great sentences and very good paragraphs. However, once he gets beyond 200 pages, the whole story drags. I liked his shorter books very much, and waited until I had several weeks of free time to tackle this longer work, knowing it would be slow going. It turned out to be even slower reading than I expected. Doig obviously learned a lot from Stegner about constructing long, complex sentences out of unfamiliar words ( or non-words on all too many occasions ) that have to be parsed carefully to suck out all the nuances of meaning, which works well for a short book of poetry but fails in a work of this length. After a while, the reader just wants the torture to end, but there is no way to hurry through Doig's convoluted poetry/prose. Doig's characters are at once totally unbelievable and exactly like my Scotch-Irish relatives, who are also unbelievable, or at least highly improbable in their actions and reasoning processes. In short, a book half as long would have been better.
Charlie A Allen
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Meyer on December 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
A fine novel worth your time, but definitely not a mystery book. Sure the first 10 pages describe a murder scene, but there's nothing to solve. Actually, it doesn't get solved, it's lived with, and really that can be said for much of what the Duff family experiences.
All members of the family Duff are unique, as are their relationships. All are enjoyable with only the Scottish Uncle seeming a little too polished; his dialogue a little too precise. But that's a quibble because overall, Doig does very well with his characters. Throw in the dam as another major character and Montana itself, and you have a book worth your time; a great tableau of the 1930s Depression in America.
And if you know what the cover of the first Life Magazine looks like, you know Fort Peck. Doig weaves many real events into his fiction including a visit by FDR, a major dam mishap, and a visit from a Life photographer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 28, 1997
Format: Hardcover
I appreciated the sense of place and time that was so well evoked. I admired the characters, thier complexities, and the overlapping and differences among their personalities. But I missed the warmth and the sense of the moment that I got from English Creek and Dancing at the Rascal Fair.

I found many of the phrases, allusions, and figures of speech to be quite unnatural and unrealistic. I found myself doubting that anyone would talk that way. While the words chosen were interesting and evocative they didn't flow and contribute to my connection with the story and characters. In fact, I often found the manner of speech to be quite distracting.

The dam was huge in life and in the story. I found that I could not easily follow some of the details about the design and construction but I also found that understanding the specifics was not necessary. What seemed to me to be important was the understanding that the dam was perhaps the major character in the novel with a life of it's own that grew in complexity as the structure itself built layer by layer. Much as the lives of the human characters interwove, unraveled, and were repaired.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By wendle@concurrent.com on April 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
"Bucking the Sun" starts with the discovery of two bodies and the promise of a mystery to be solved. I was hooked after reading the first chapter. However, the mystery reappeared once in the next 350 pages or so. In the meantime, I learned about dam building, New Deal projects , and Comunist politics of the era.
On the plus side, Mr. Doig certainly knows his subjects well. He develops interesting characters and relationships and weaves it all into a complex novel.
I was left feeling like I'd been teased with the mystery which turned out to be little more than a footnote. Also, I'd have to say I didn't find the author's style all that easy.
On whole, though, the book was worthwhile and I'll try another of his works.
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