Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by Joe Campana & r & & r & The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & C & lt;/span & onvinced that his low count of wolf pelts has something to do with an odd trail of light in the midnight sky, Brose Turley holds Morrie Morgan at knifepoint and demands, "The world ending in fire? Is it?"


Who among us can blame Turley? His superstitious mind may be on to something. After all, things were swell in 1909 in eastern Montana until this rakish schoolteacher named Morgan arrived, bringing with him a fancy-pants vocabulary, brass knuckles, knowledge of Halley's Comet and, worse, some unmanly spectacles to help Turley's willfully ignorant son learn to read. Now things are out of joint. Someone will have to pay.


In The Whistling Season, Montana native Ivan Doig's 11th book, that someone turns out to be not Mr. Morgan but rather Paul Milliron, Morgan's most willing pupil. Forty-eight years after his days as a seventh-grader in Morgan's one-room schoolhouse, Milliron, now the superintendent of Montana schools, is charged with bringing the state's young boys up to snuff in math and science. How to begin? Close all the one-room schoolhouses. Loathe to raze the sorts of places where he was formed, Milliron nevertheless decides to initiate the purge with the school he attended.


You'll often hear Doig compared to giants of Western prose such as Wallace Stegner and A.B. Guthrie, masters whose work has defined an entire genre of American literature. Such lofty praise is all well and good, but it can deter as many new readers as it attracts. If you're among the thus-far deterred, it's time to snatch Doig's eighth novel from the shelf ($25 be damned), not because we may have a legend in our midst but because what we have is a flinty working man who's great at his job. Doig is an old pro, an expert storyteller. And I watch him work much the way I'd watch a bent-backed woodworker fashion cabinets.


A coming-of-age schoolyard novel is a minefield of clich & eacute;s. Common in this genre are young love, schoolyard bullies, jeopardized budgets, unorthodox teachers, secret handshakes, fussy administrators and at some point an auditorium of rapt parents -- in short, all manner of potential hokum we've seen a million times and promised ourselves we won't fall for again. Thankfully, Doig never asks us to. Sure, much of the above finds its way into the book -- this is middle school after all -- but Doig surprises at every turn.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • OK, Hold Your Nose
  • OK, Hold Your Nose

    Everything you need to know before Election Day
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • Base of Support
  • Base of Support

    Polling local leaders and opinion-makers about presidential politics
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • The Messenger
  • The Messenger

    Local leaders weigh in on how Donald Trump's campaign has impacted racism in America
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat
Sculpting Mammoth Animals with Peter Thomas

Sculpting Mammoth Animals with Peter Thomas @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Sun., Sept. 25 and Sun., Oct. 2

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • To Kill the Black Snake

    Historic all-tribes protest at Standing Rock is meant to stop the destruction of the earth for all
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • Murrow's Nightmare

    Debate moderators need to be much more than an onstage prop to make our democracy work
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

election 2016


trail mix


Briefs


green zone


marijuana


Readers also liked…

  • Untold Damages
  • Untold Damages

    For three wrongfully convicted Spokane Valley men, the fight for justice isn't over
    • Feb 5, 2015
  • Taxes: Idaho vs. Washington
  • Taxes: Idaho vs. Washington

    How do the two states stack up?
    • Feb 11, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation