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Mountain Time: A Novel Hardcover – August 4, 1999

3.8 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (August 4, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068483295X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684832951
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you have never read a book by Ivan Doig, you're missing a wonderful collection of stories. As with earlier books, Mountain Time is largely set in Montana and Seattle and Doig makes it highly visual with his writing style. The terrain, the climate, the family generations and local customs are all described so well and so subtly that you will not immediately realize that he has transported you there. You will feel the story more than you read it. You will NOT be able to put this book down because you will be so committed to the characters and their search for meaning in life.
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Format: Hardcover
It's true this is not Ivan Doig's best work. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to top my favorite, Dancing at the Rascal Fair. Mr. Doig's storytelling is honest and straightforward; his wordsmithing in high form. Some of the reviews indicate trite characterization of western Washington, and an uninvolving story with unsurprising revelations. Not true if you come to this story with different expectations. Life in Washington isn't the point of this story (and what may seem trite seemed all to real to what I've seen here in Seattle. Mr. Doig writes issues many Baby Boomers may be facing or have confronted: a dying parent; coming to gripes with a parent's choices; life changes, in this case, the impact of divorce on self; loss of job. Having experienced aspects of what this story covered, I found the novel a good depiction of these issues and relationships. Yes, it takes a while to get into the story, but once in I found it quite satisfying.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is another of Doig's wonderful books where one reads from the beginning..first getting a picture od the characters as Doig paints them. Once one has the characters clearly in mind, Doig pull the fishing taut and has the reader hooked. Then one goes through Cliffhanger after Cliffhanger.

What will Mitch do to line up a job after college? He is now married and has "akid on the way?!"

But will he go in with his pot smoking buddy where he can have an easy money job at the same rate of pay as the one he currently has? Why did his wife take off from him in the first place? Why do his only two children diespise him when, over all, he seems like such a wonderful guy?

Will he die from various fun jobs too close to volcanos? what about in a tour of Alaska on a seaplane? How about close encounters with grizzly bears?

Why isn't he married to his latest live and live-in named Lexa?

It seems as if every time Doig slings in another $3.00 word which requires a dictionary to enlighten Gentle Reader that a new twist or turn into the plot arrives...new word/new twist to the book.

But ll these twistings and turnings are part and parcel of the fun of reading Ivan Doig. He stays in his own back yard of Montana or, perhaps Arizona when he paints the backdrops of his novels. Then he throws in some uneducated characters to mix in with his hard working ones who have pulled themselves up by their boot straps along with the highly educated crew. All in all, it maks for fine reading. Those of us at home with his sudden twists and turns find that thise are the reasons we come back to see how his literary fantasy is coming along.
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Format: Paperback
Ivan Doig is an excellent writer and Mountain Time rates as one of his best. He bases his books in Montana and provides outstanding pictures of the people, attitudes, landscape, and scenery of the state. I am a native Montanan and know both Seattle and Montana's Rocky Mountain Front. Both are accurately depicted here. Doig's description of a cafe that is "somewhere between unfinished and deteriorating" would fit any number of cafes in small-town Montana. On a plot level, Mountain Time presents some unique twists and many poignant moments that will keep the reader involved from the beginning to the end. This is not a book where you will guess the ending before you get there.
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Format: Hardcover
A painted silk scroll from China shows a zen poet and calligrapher trying to capture the satori, the spontaneous enlightenment sometimes attained by the immensity of the landscape. The tree-lined mountains, and the winding creeks and brooks overshadow the artist who sits at his bench as incense plumes rise into the landscape.
Ivan Doig has written what could be a zen contemplation with the power of a volcano in his newest work. It's not so much the wonderful characterization of the main characters and their innocence and fragility in terms of one another, but it is the way their bodies and minds, abused like much of the landscape, try desperately to connect.
Generations must come to terms: a dying one that had survived the depression and had fought through two world wars and an aging one, "the baby boomers" who rebelled against older ideals but feel what it's like to age, and wonder, in a cloud of nostalgia; Are there resolutions? Between Father and Son? Wife and Husband? Daughter and Father? Man vs. Nature?
All relationships are represented maginificently in Mountain Time. Nature casts a shadow on all the characters. The forests, the mountains, and the streams age with humanity, but they won't remember us.
In short, an apt metaphor is Mt. St. Helens, which figures in the novel and which Doig brings alive as a character. No one can forget the force of power, the gray blast of hot ash, the blanket of destruction marking itself in the mind. And one can see, today, the renenwal and rebirth of the landscape even after such destruction.
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