This House Of Sky : Landscapes Of A Western Mind / Ivan Doig

This House of Sky pays homage to Doig’s father and grandmother, and to the house of sky he was raised beneath in Montana.  In this loving memoir, he recounts growing up on various cattle and sheep ranches in the years following World War II.  He opens his story following the death of his asthmatic mother when he was six years old and she just thirty-one.  His father, Charles Doig, then forty-four years old and a ranch hand, was determined to keep his only child by his side.  This would not be easy considering the rough living conditions and the demands of his job.  Charles decides that he will need assistance in his parenting duties.  After a failed marriage of short duration, he invites his first wife’s mother, Bessie, to come live in the household.  This is not an easy step for him to take since there had been ill feelings between the pair in the past.  As Doig shows in the book, over time, his father and grandmother develop a grudging friendship that finally ripens into love.  Charlie and Bessie’s portrayals capture their stoic attitudes and close ties to the Montana community.  Despite the constant hard labor and harsh conditions, they never complain about their lot in life.  Doig’s description of the Montana landscape is breathtaking, too.  This is the kind of book in which a reader needs to pause frequently and simply savor the author’s use of the English language.  Thanks to his vivid prose, one is able to fully experience this past era of Montana history.  The arc of the story traces Doig’s boyhood into young adult life, but the focus is mostly on Charlie and Bessie.  The concluding chapters that describe their final years are truly touching.  I can’t imagine anyone not being captivated by this tribute to his family and formative years in Montana.  It has certainly insured that I will be picking up other works by this celebrated American author.


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