Bucking the Sun

Ivan Doig, Author
Ivan Doig, Author Simon & Schuster $23 (416p) ISBN 978-0-684-81171-0
Reviewed on: 04/29/1996
Release date: 05/01/1996
Analog Audio Cassette - 4 pages - 978-0-671-57382-9
Paperback - 412 pages - 978-0-684-83149-7
Hardcover - 804 pages - 978-0-7862-0814-2
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-7435-4053-7
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4640-0540-4
Open Ebook - 416 pages - 978-1-4391-2534-2
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As in Doig's Montana trilogy (Dancing at the Rascal Fair, etc.), here American history forms the vivid backdrop for a flinty family drama. Once again, a group of hardheaded, Scotch-descended Montanans struggle with each other and with nature, this time during the building of the Fort Peck Dam from 1933 to 1938. Hugh Duff hasn't spoken to his eldest son, Owen, since the young man abandoned the family farm to study engineering. Owen is hired to oversee Fort Peck's earth fill just as his father learns that the dam will flood their fields. Hugh simmers, but his wife, Meg, and their twin sons, reckless Bruce and sensible Neil, are happy to get jobs on the New Deal project, though Neil asserts his independence by ""bucking the sun"" (driving into its head-on rays) for his after-hours trucking business. The brothers' wives-Owen's socially ambitious Charlene; her sister Rosellen, an aspiring writer married to Neil; and Bruce's terse, tough-minded Kate-increase the volatility of the Duff family mix of love and loyalty tempering profound differences of personality and belief. Among the other well-drawn characters is Hugh's Marxist brother Darious, a striking portrait of political extremism. Doig's trademark, minutely detailed evocations of physical labor are present here, as is a bravura description of a disastrous collapse of the unfinished dam. The novel is more plot-heavy than Doig's previous work: the mysterious deaths that bookend the main story are contrived, and the narrative often whipsaws among various Duffs. Not quite as magical as English Creek, but much better than the sketchy Ride with Me, Mariah Montana, this is still vintage Doig. Author tour. (May)
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