This house of sky: Landscapes of a Western mind

by Ivan Doig

Hardcover, 1978

Call number

978 D



Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1978), Edition: 1st, 314 pages


Ivan Doig's memoir shares the experiences and culture that shaped his early years and made him fall in love with the West. From his childhood in a family of homesteaders through the death of his mother and his move to Montana to herd sheep, Doig shows his intimate connection with the American West.

User reviews

LibraryThing member lkernagh
Those of you who pay attention to my reading likes/dislikes will know that I don't usually gravitate towards books that describe the toil of living in the American West. After reading This House of Sky, I think this may change. Doig's memoir of the tough ranching life of his father, the early loss
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of his mother (when Doig was only six), Doig's strong, determined maternal grandmother and the harsh realities of those Montana winters resonates throughout this book. As one reviewer put it, this is "a dazzling, lyrical summoning of his Montana childhood", wonderfully capturing time and place with a contemplative tone that seems to echo with Montana's rolling hills and spacious prairies. What a perfect way to experience Doig's writing style for the very first time! I am finding that authors tend to make their memoirs 'live' for the reader to experience, so I will be keeping an eye out for more author memoirs. A wonderful read.
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LibraryThing member satyridae
Doig's memoir of growing up out West is resonant and pure. His voice is singular, his prose glowing. Doig's mother died when he was 6 and he and his father made a life and a living on the ranches of Montana. A uniquely American story well-told. Highly recommended.
LibraryThing member creynolds
Doig's The Whistling Season is one of my favorites, so I picked this up based on reviews. It was interesting and he had an unusual childhood, but often the prose style just didn't work for me. I'm glad I read it, but I would not recommend it enthusiastically.
LibraryThing member rexmedford
This is my favorite book, by one of my favorite authors. Incredibly well written in a Montana setting that literally takes you there, living beside the author as he narrates his early years. Ivan Doig hooked me with this inaugaral effort
LibraryThing member Grace.Van.Moer
Beautifully written account of the author’s childhood in western Montana in the 1950s. One of the best books I’ve read in a while.
LibraryThing member joanderson2010
Doig gives the reader the chance to grow up with him in northern Montana and to share his family's hardscrabble life. Very satisfying read. Well written. Amazing the various lives lived in these United States.
LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
This memoir was completed in 1978,a few years after Doig lost two of the most important people in his life, his father and his maternal grandmother, who raised him together after his mother died when he was six years old. They are the stars of the story, but Ivan himself figures very prominently in
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it, as it tells of his own young life under the rugged conditions of mid-20th century Montana ranching and sheep-herding. It is easy to see the seeds of his novels in his own upbringing--and what a harvest he made of it. Doig's gift with the language is priceless...he just drops golden sentences all over the pages, and makes it seem effortless and utterly un-self-conscious. I'm convinced that he talked exactly as he wrote, and that he would have been just as much of a joy to listen to as he is to read. Five stars.
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LibraryThing member ksnider
I loved the writing. By the end of this book you will know Ivan and his father and his grandmother. And you will know the land and people of Montana. His writing is so vivid and he writes with such love for his family and his boyhood and the land. A masterpiece.
LibraryThing member hemlokgang
Review disclaimer: My maternal grandmother grew up on a Montana ranch. Her best friend was the daughter of Judge Rankin, whose name was apparently a curse word amongst other ranchers and ranch hands. Jeannette Rankin became my mother's godmother, and the first woman elected to the US House of
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Representatives, so I felt a special kinship.

My, oh my! Ivan Doig, always a master of lovely prose, applies his gift to his autobiography. The reader is immersed in the landscape of Montana and it's reflection in the Doig family's life. It is noble, human, gritty, grueling, and full of deep love. A treasure!
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LibraryThing member maggie1944
I finished This House of Sky last night and I am feeling the Montana love. Well, maybe really I'm feeling the Doig love. His use of language is unique and very, very evocative. I felt like I was there with him, his father, and his grandmother through each season of lambing, through the snow storms,
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though the wide open empty space which is the prairie. I've confessed a desire to have a Doig marathon and read more of his books right now. However, I need to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn which I've never read. It is the next book group book and I'm ready to get it read before the group meets which I've not been able to do for several months now. I feel as if I'm capable of settling down to read.
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LibraryThing member bibliophileofalls
Wonderful book. Poetic descriptions, Believable characters and story. A treasure!
LibraryThing member carolfoisset
Whistling Season is one of my all time favorite books and it was the first Ivan Doig book I read. Over the years I have read many more of his books and I just finished The House of Sky. It has moved ahead of Whistling Season! Such an amazing telling of Ivan's life and that of his ancestors and so
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beautifully written. Loved this book!
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LibraryThing member larryerick
Ivan Doig is my wife's favorite author. I'm certain she's read every one of his books, and there have been several. And since he lives in our area, she has taken me along several times to listen to him read from his new work as it came out. As a result, I tried to read one of his fictional books
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some time back and immediately ran into what seems a trait of Doig, a trait of starting the reader out with an avalanche of descriptive text. To me, it feels like a lifetime to work through a single paragraph. So I gave up. This book was no different, but (1) it was nonfiction, and (2) it was perhaps his most highly regarded book, so I persevered. It was very good I did. True, this is a memoir, a man telling about his life growing up in rural Montana, a place that could just as well have been Turkey or the Australian outback, as far as the typical American would think. So, yes, there's an element of travel adventure to it. (There are a number of very memorable scenes.) Ultimately, however, this is Doig's reflection on the complex dynamics that constitute a family, no matter how "normal" or out of the ordinary it may seem. After the initial descriptive flood, Doig settles into a flow of seeing life to which the reader can easily relate, no matter how foreign it may be at first glance. Each scene, each setting flows so well from one stage of his life to another, the reader moves through the years without hesitation. At some point, as the author's life takes him away from the reader's home base of Montana, Doig's writing style changes. As Doig is now in college (Northwestern University), the writing abruptly switches to a series of brief tales, often one not at all related to the other. And just as I'm starting to tell myself that I do not appreciate this loss of narrative flow, Doig pulls out some of most moving narrative I have ever read, a narrative that could never have had the impact it had without all that had gone before, with all of the patience that Doig had brought to bear to get us to that point. I was so moved by the writing at that point, that I found myself reading it to my wife, the true Doig disciple. Doig soon returns to his flowing style and takes us to the eventual end of his childhood family. It was a journey well worth taking.
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LibraryThing member streamsong
Ivan Doig's maternal grandparents had never been fond of their daughter marrying the freewheeling ranch hand Charlie Doig. Their frail daughter had fought with a childhood of ailments and they felt that Charlie didn't have much of a future monetarily.

Young love prevailed and the two were
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Unfortunately, one of young Ivan's first memories at six years old was that of his mother dying from asthma.

It was left to Charlie Doig to provide a future for his son from the often meager funds of a cowboy and ranch hand and as a single father.

After a failed marriage trying to provide his son with a mother, he eventually approached his widowed mother-in-law, Bessie Ringer, to live with them. Bessie and Charlie had open suspicion and downright dislike between them, but they were united in their love for Ivan, and their commitment to him.

This is a story of growing up in the 40's and 50's on ranches in Montana; where money was scarce, but family feelings were strong.

As always, Doig's prose is beautiful and compelling. Beautiful word-pictures of the Montana landscape, family life and Doig's realization that he was meant to be a writer.
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LibraryThing member GennaC
Doig’s memoir reads like a stunning love letter to the great expanses of Montana and the unique souls it is home to. Painstakingly compiled journal entries, memories, and stories from his now departed father and grandmother, This House of Sky is both poetically gorgeous and heart wrenching. From
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the early death of his mother to an unpredictable childhood spent ranch hopping with his emotionally damaged sheepherding father to coping as an adult with his father’s downward slide from emphysema, Doig recounts his own youth and that of his father in an honest and unsympathetic, yet honorable way. Stunning imagery of pioneer-era Montana and the changes its ranches have undergone offers an unforgettable backdrop to Doig’s moving literary dedication to his father.
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LibraryThing member deldevries
Excellent writing to tale the story of rural growing up in rugged Montana. Although this is a memoir, Doig's writing gives a glimpse into growing up in the first half of the 1900's in rural Montana, both for Doig in the 1950's and his father earlier. I think that this is an important history
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captured in great detail.
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