Not since Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath has there been a family saga as powerful as Bucking the Sun or a family as compellingly strife-torn as the one at its center. Driven by drought from their Montana farm to "relief work" building the Fort Peck Dam, the Duff family spans the extremes of the times, from the eldest son Owen, who has made his way through college to an engineer's job on the dam to young Bruce, his antithesis, a risk-taker who works as a diver setting pilings into the treacherous river bottom. In between are Neil, the quiet one, and the brothers' iron-willed wives. When a couple of wild cards are introduced, in the form of a Red Uncle from Scotland and the prostitute he takes up with, the plot gets as thick and turbulent as the muddy Missouri. Bucking the Sun is a startling story of mixed fortunes that races from moment to moment, an epic rendering of time and place that reminds us why Ivan Doig is our foremost living storyteller of the American West.
This is a complicated tale.Doig gives readers clues by putting a character's thoughts in italics: what they say is often different. The book is set in 1938. The Duff family is involved in a major project: construction of the Fort Peck Dam, aiming to dam the Missouri River. There are flashbacks to earlier days (some exciting, some sad) and these, at least for me, made the book more worthwhile.
It's a good active story about interesting characters who have flawed personalities. There is a fair balance of humor and contemplation about life. Don't expect a knight in shining armor to save the day, or you will be disappointed. Be forewarned that the book has some sex scenes that give you a rather explicit picture of what is going on, though without using many explicit words- an interesting writing skill.