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

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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: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

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

This is Ivan Doig's story of growing up in Montana.
This is a poignant, beautifully written account of the writer's life.
This is the second time that I have read this book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

126 of 127 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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44 of 44 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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32 of 32 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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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Daniel H. Bigelow VINE VOICE on November 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
As soon as I started reading This House of Sky, I fell into Ivan Doig's world. By the end I was so mesmerized by his wonderful language and vivid characters that I was wandering around the house with the book up to my nose, bumping into things, trying to do chores one-handed while reading. I would never have believed that a book that starts out with the gasping, hideous suffocating death of one of the author's parents and ends with the gasping, hideous suffocating death of the other one could contain such boundless love of family, such joy, and such beauty. Doig's vivid writing shades perilously close to poetry, and he has an eye for the perfect anecdote to illustrate his point. Doig evokes in the endless drudgery of Montana ranch life a heroic struggle, and turns his hardworking, mercurial father into one of the great figures of modern literature. As a chronicle of Doig's childhood and its end and of the Montana sheepherding life in the early parts of this century, This House of Sky is a spectacular success; but as a tribute to his beloved family and especially his father, the book is a powerfully moving classic.
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