July 2010 Indie Next List
“The year is 1919, a decade after The Whistling Season, and we're once again graced with the presence of Morrie Morris, that irascible fellow who charmed us in Doig's earlier novel. He's now in Butte, Montana, and has gotten himself embroiled in the workings of the Anaconda Copper Mine, the unions, the Wobblies, the public library, and the goings-on in the boarding house where he ends up. Ivan Doig is a master of grand, old fashioned storytelling, and Work Song is storytelling at its best!”
— Vicki McNeil, Watermark Book Co., Anacortes, WA
An award-winning and beloved novelist of the American West spins the further adventures of a favorite character, in one of his richest historical settings yet.
"If America was a melting pot, Butte would be its boiling point," observes Morrie Morgan, the itinerant teacher, walking encyclopedia, and inveterate charmer last seen leaving a one-room schoolhouse in Marias Coulee, the stage he stole in Ivan Doig's 2006 "The Whistling Season." A decade later, Morrie is back in Montana, as the beguiling narrator of "Work Song."
Lured like so many others by "the richest hill on earth," Morrie steps off the train in Butte, copper-mining capital of the world, in its jittery heyday of 1919. But while riches elude Morrie, once again a colorful cast of local characters-and their dramas-seek him out: a look-alike, sound-alike pair of retired Welsh miners; a streak-of-lightning waif so skinny that he is dubbed Russian Famine; a pair of mining company goons; a comely landlady propitiously named Grace; and an eccentric boss at the public library, his whispered nickname a source of inexplicable terror. When Morrie crosses paths with a lively former student, now engaged to a fiery young union leader, he is caught up in the mounting clash between the iron-fisted mining company, radical "outside agitators," and the beleaguered miners. And as tensions above ground and below reach the explosion point, Morrie finds a unique way to give a voice to those who truly need one.
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About the Author
Ivan Doig was born in Montana and grew up along the Rocky Mountain Front, the dramatic landscape that has inspired much of his writing. A former ranch hand, newspaperman, and magazine editor, with a Ph.D. in history, Doig is the author of nine previous novels, most recently "The Whistling Season" and "The Eleventh Man," and three works of nonfiction, including his classic first book, the memoir "This House of Sky." He has been a National Book Award finalist and has received the Wallace Stegner Award, a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Western Literature Association, and multiple PNBA and MPBA Book Awards, among other honors. He lives in Seattle.
"A genuinely sweet book by a writer who is generous to his characters and readers alike...start to finish Morrie proves a character in the best sense of the word...He's awfully good company...a character with whom it's a pleasure to pass the time no matter the scenery."
"Entertaining for its rich historical take on the town of Butte...and for its evocative descriptions."
"A classic tale from the heyday of American capitalism by the king of the Western novel."
-The Daily Beast (Hot Reads)
"As enjoyable and subtly thought-provoking a piece of fiction as you're likely to pick up this summer. It's a book that can be appreciated just for the quality of the prose and the author's adherence to the sturdy conventions of old- fashioned narrative or for Doig's sly gloss on Western genre fiction and unforced evocation of our current condition - or, better yet, for all those things...One of this novel's pleasures is the rich cast of secondary characters Doig effortlessly sketches into his narrative...a pleasure to read."
-The Los Angeles Times
"Relax and allow yourself to be re-absorbed into a way of life that is, day by day, being lost to strip malls and strip mining...As in his previous novels, Doig excels at his descriptions of both characters and the land. ..It's hard to keep a smile off your face as you're working your way through this book. Nostalgia has found a happy home here."
-New West (starred review)
"If you were looking for a novel that best expresses the American spirit, you'd have to ride past a lot of fence posts before finding anything as worthy as Work Song.
"Not one stictch unravels in this intricately threaded narrative ... infectious."
-The New York Times Book Review
"Readers who fell in love with Morrie Morgan in The Whistling Season will welcome him back to Montana in Ivan Doig's latest adventure. The pages turn quickly ... Doig's love of language - more specifically, storytelling - is apparent throughout. ... Richly imagined and beautifully paced."
"With deft strokes of storytelling, Doig paints a vivid scene. [He] introduces ... the most unforgettable librarian in all of American fiction [among] a reach of characters worthy of Dostoevsky. ... Doig has delivered another compelling tale about America, epic as an Old West saga but as fresh and contemporary as the news."
-The Seattle Times
"Another insightful, highly readable look at the landscape of the land and the soul...[Doig's] masterful hand takes readers skillfully into the past with a human story that echoes today ... a true treasure."
-The Billings Gazette
"Magical ... you'll be enjoying every bit of [Doig's] breathtaking storytelling prowess."
"More atmospheric, pleasingly old-fashioned storytelling from Doig...whose ear for the way people spoke and thought in times gone by is as faultless as ever."
"The most tumultous, quirky, and fascinating city in the American West of the last century has finally found a storyteller equal to its stories. ... Ivan Doig brings to life the core of humanity, and a hell of cast, amidst the shadows and sorrows of Butte, Montana -- a city that could say it never slept well before New York made a similar claim."
-Tim Egan, author of The Last Hard Time and The Big Burn
"Butte is by far the most colorful town in Montana, a kaleidoscope of culture, commerce and copper mines, the perfect palette for an artist like Ivan Doig. Work Song doesn't just hum along-its rich authenticity echoes and resonates."
-Jamie Ford, author of The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet