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This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind Paperback – February 19, 1980

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ivan Doig was born in Montana in 1939 and grew up along the Rocky Mountain Front, the dramatic landscape that has inspired much of his writing. A recipient of a lifetime Distinguished Achievement Award from the Western Literature Association, he is the author of eight previous novels, most recently The Whistling Season, and three works of nonfiction, including This House of Sky. He lives in Seattle.

From AudioFile

This is the endearing story of a Montana man's reflections of growing up during a tumultuous, yet enlightening, time in history when life was slower, the landscape was environmentally protected, neighbors more supportive, and a boy's imagination could flourish. Doig describes in detail his mother and father's devotion for him and each other, and paints vivid portraits of a tightly knit family living in a rugged terrain and struggling for survival. After his mother's death, times got tougher, and Doig's portrayal of his dad's difficulties are touching. Poetic interludes are charming and contrast interestingly with Doig's portrayal of a wild and rugged Montana and its curious inhabitants. This unusual and beautifully expressed autobiography is a stunning work of art. B.J.P. © AudioFile 2001, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1st Harvest/HBJ Ed edition (February 19, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156899825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156899826
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

131 of 133 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on May 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
As a writer, Ivan Doig is something of a favorite son in Montana, and for good reason. His memoir is a rhapsody of affection for the land where he grew up -- the small towns, homesteads and ranches in the Smith River Valley, along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, extending north to the Blackfeet Reservation on the Canadian border. It's also a wonderful and often touching story of a father and son. Born in 1939, Doig begins his tale with the emigration of his forebears from Scotland to Montana. At the end, in the 1970s, he has emerged as a writer with a graduate degree, living in Seattle, with rich and deeply felt memories of the people and the land he has known -- the house of sky.
An only child, his mother dying when he is six years old, Doig is raised by his father, Charlie, who works various jobs, sheepherding, haying, moving from place to place, and for a while leasing a small ranch of his own, his son in tow. Charlie is a hard-working man, with a big heart and tender love for his son. Concerned by a turn of bad health, he is reconciled to his mother-in-law, who did not approve of her daughter's marriage to him, and the three of them become a family that remains together until Charlie's death at age 70.
The book captures and preserves in detail a way of life that has almost vanished from America. Doig tells of growing up in wide open spaces among livestock and wildlife, learning from his father the skills of making a living off the land and surviving against the odds. He attends small town schools, spending the winters in rented rooms, seeing his father and grandmother only on weekends. Much of his time spent with adults or alone, he grows up more quickly than his peers and learns to love solitude.
At 300+ pages, this is not a long book, but it's no page-turner.
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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful By R. Tiedemann on July 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
Read this in the company of someone else. Every five minutes or so you'll call attention to something in the text -- a choice description, a picturesque flow of words, a bit of hilarity that will reduce you both to laughter. This is a book to be shared.
Doig is a gifted writer with the facility of a James Agee in his choice of words and phrasing. On the page he presents a constant wild, vivid sensory impression, as if you were riding on horseback with him through his beloved Montana hills, sharing the terrain, people and history in ways you hadn't experienced before and couldn't experience anywhere else.
His descriptions show keen insight and attention to detail through carefully chosen, apt simile and metaphor. "I had noticed at Jordan's," he writes about a situation he experienced as a child, "...the boarding child is something like a stranded visitor that people get accustomed to half-seeing at the edges of their vision -- and no one, least of all me, seemed to think there was much unusual about my alighting here and there casually as a roosting pullet."
As a young boy, exploring: "For by greatest luck a silvered ship, high-hulled and pinging with emptiness, rode at the far end of the ranch buildings. A ship, at least to my imaginings. In the years when the machine chomped broadly through grainfields, it was called a combine. Now this dreadnaught stood, in its tones of dulling metal and cluster of idle gearwheels, for me to climb into..."
Here's the epitome of fine writing. You won't find more vivid images anywhere and he doesn't stint at all with language.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Millie Mom on January 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
Ivan Doig has captured my heart. I felt that he took my hand and led me to this magnificently rugged and sometimes brutal place, and shared all the joys and sorrows he shared there with the people he loved.He tells of his father's great inner strength, his father's love of the grandeur of those wild mountain ranges, deep-notched valleys, and the prairie fields that go on forever. He tells of his mother, whom he lost at the age of six, and the people who come into his life to get him through those tender years of loss, each one a rich, full-bodied character of the West, who leaves an indelible mark on Ivan's life. This is not a tear-stained narrative. This is a proud son of the West, with a deep love of his heritage and the people who made him the man he is today.I'm so grateful he was willing to share his story with us.If you love beautiful,richly-descriptive prose, great narratives, histories of the people who settled the West, please enjoy this fine portrait painted by a master of the art.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By riverrd@totalnetnh.net on December 26, 1997
Format: Paperback
I ordered this book when it was first published for my dad. When I was home for his funeral the bookstore called to tell me it was in. I bought the book and read it about 6 months later. I have never read a book that was so unique in the way the author used language. If you want to know how cowboys and sheepherders in Montana speak read this book. If you want to know how people compromise themselves for the ones they love read this book. If you want to gain insight into a truely fine father and son relationship read this book. If you don't want to be moved to tears and laughter don't read this book. It took me over a year to finish this book because the language was so vivid it transported me back to my childhood and I felt as it I were sitting in my dads truck listening to him shoot the breeze with his cowboy friends. My fathers voice whispered in my ear and I would have to put the book down. Read this book you will not be disappointed.
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