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The Whistling Season    by Ivan Doig order for
Whistling Season
by Ivan Doig
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Kerrily Sapet

'Winters were the tree rings of homestead life, circling circumferences of weather thick or thin, which over time swelled into the abiding pattern of memory,' writes Ivan Doig in The Whistling Season. Similar beautiful images of life in Montana in the early 1900s spill from the paragraphs in the pages of this novel. These mental pictures help paint a glorious vision of both the scenery and the diverse characters that live and breathe within the book.

Oliver, Paul, Damon, and Toby Milliron were left without a wife and mother when she died. They've been struggling to do their best on their own, but as dust builds, meals of porridge grow old, and farm chores swell, they need help. Then one day they read an advertisement in the paper - 'Can't cook, but doesn't bite.' After chuckling and responding, they land themselves with a new housekeeper named Rose. She arrives fresh from Minneapolis with her brother Morrie. Though neither is particularly well suited to a farming lifestyle, each quickly adapts and grows to love the Montana landscape. When the current teacher of the one-room schoolhouse runs off and marries a traveling preacher, the intellectual Morrie is conscripted into running the school.

As Doig's story progresses, each character is fully developed. They stand up for each other and understand each other in touching ways throughout the book. There is a sense of humor, honesty, and unity that makes them human. But soon Paul, the oldest child and narrator, puts clues together, leading him to believe that there might be more to Rose and Morrie than the Millirons suspect. It's a startling conclusion, yet a happy one, in which each one of the beloved characters is illuminated.

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