Celebrated for his stirring, clear-eyed memoirs and novels of Montana--Dancing at the Rascal Fair, This House of Sky, and most recently Bucking the Sun--Ivan Doig vaults over the mountains in his new novel and lands in the midst of Seattle's fin-de-siècle coffee and computer culture. Mitch Rozier is an oversized, Montana-born, divorced, fiftysomething environmental columnist for a once-hip weekly newspaper on the verge of going under. Lexa McCaskill is his scrappy, earthy, no-nonsense "spousal equivalent"--a "compact Stetsoned woman in blue jeans," also from Montana and divorced, who makes a handsome living catering swanky parties for Seattle's software plutocrats. Doig has a fine time satirizing the excesses and absurdities of "Cyberia" before he abruptly shoos his characters back to Montana: Lyle Rozier, Mitch's Stegner-esque father, wants to involve his son in one more ransack-the-land scheme before leukemia kills him.
The wary standoff between father and son works on many levels: as a deeply realistic clash between two fierce, disappointed men; as a symbolic confrontation between the Old West and the new--Lyle's frank, freewheeling exploitation of Montana's vastness versus Mitch's helpless reverence for the environment; and as a brief, brilliant history of how people have lived off and with the land in 20th-century Montana. All of these strands come together in a stunning climax played out against the glorious backdrop of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
One of the great novelists of the American West, Doig proves here that he is just as adept at conjuring up the vagaries of our shiny new cities as he is at taking the measure of rough, tough, old Montana. Mountain Time has everything going for it--great characters, breathtaking scenery, heartbreaking family feuds, wicked humor, a page-turning love story, prose so perfectly pitched you'll want to read it out loud. And there's something new for Doig aside from setting--a serene, twinkling levity. This is the work of a master having a hell of a good time. --David Laskin
From Publishers Weekly
If any writer can be said to wear the mantle of the late Wallace Stegner, Doig qualifies, as a steady and astute observer of life in our Western states. Infused with his knowledge and appreciation of the Western landscapes, his novels are a finger on the pulse of the people who try to reconcile their love of open spaces with the demands of modern life, particularly the form of "progress" that threatens the environment. In this ingratiating novel, Doig continues the story of the McCaskell family (seen previously in English Creek, Dancing at the Rascal Fair and Ride with Me, Mariah Montana), this time focusing on sisters Lexa and Mariah McCaskell. Lexa's marriage to a forest ranger and her days as cook in Alaska are behind her; now sturdy, capable Lexa runs a catering service in Seattle. She lives with rugged environmental journalist Mitch Rozier, another escapee from rough life in northern Montana. At 50, Mitch is facing a double crisis: the newspaper where his column appears is about to fold, and his foxy, rapacious father, Lyle, a notorious land despoiler, is dying of leukemia and has summoned him back to Twin Sulphur Springs. Lexa goes back to Montana, too, bringing her sexy sister, Mariah, just returned to the States after a year-long photographing expedition around the world. Lyle's illness and death unleash complex memories and future shocks. Tensions between Mitch and his father, between Lexa and Mariah, and between Mitch and Lexa come to a boiling point on Phantom Woman Mountain on the Continental Divide, where Lyle has ordered that his ashes be scattered. While the narrative eventually achieves cohesiveness, initially it is disconcertingly fragmentary, as Doig intercuts contemporary scenes with flashbacks. Among the novel's considerable strengths, however, are Doig's lyrical writing about scenery ("Up here the continent was tipsy with mountains") and local history. He excels in lively dialogue (sometimes a tad too cute), and in grasping the nuances of male-female relationships. But most importantly, this is an honest and resonant portrait of idealists facing middle age and learning to deal with past issues that shadow their lives. Agent, Liz Darhansoff. (Aug.)
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