From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Doig affectionately revisits Morris "Morrie" Morgan from the much-heralded The Whistling Season. Now, 10 years later, in 1919, Morrie lands in Butte, Mont., beholding the area's natural beauty that "made a person look twice." Scoring a job is a top priority, as is getting more face time with Grace Faraday, the alluring widow who runs the boardinghouse where he stays. Things, naturally, are complicated, as the fiendishly bookish Morrie is on the run from Chicago gangsters who feel they've been duped after he scored a windfall from a fixed sports wager. The local "shysters" at the duplicitous Anaconda Copper Mining Company, meanwhile, find Morrie's sudden interest in Butte highly suspicious as they try to bully Grace into selling her property. Morrie lands what might be an ideal job working at the public library with ex–cattle rancher Samuel Sandison, though our sturdy narrator must choose sides when the mining company ups the ante. Drama ebbs and flows as Morrie yields to the plight of union leader Jared Evans, and Morrie and Samuel come to terms with sins from their pasts. Charismatic dialogue and charming, homespun characterization make Doig's latest another surefire winner.
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Every once in a while, critics are so divided on their opinion of a novel as to leave readers scratching their heads in bewilderment. Witness Work Song
. Sure, its plot is a little thin, and it's "history lite." Yet most critics praise Doig, a veteran writer of the West, for his ability to weave a story out of the familiar Montana countryside--or his panoramic, loving portrayal of those landscapes--and they explain Doig's hold on readers as the result of an avuncular blend of history and nostalgia. On the other hand, respected literary critic Jonathan Yardley has written thousands of reviews, few of them--by his own admission--so scathing and pointedly negative as his response to Work Song
. One wonders at the gulf between "subtly thought-provoking" (Los Angeles Times
) and "world-class dud" (Washington Post