In The Whistling Season, Ivan Doig invites readers to visit a small farming community in Montana, about a hundred years back. There, we observe frontier ways of life, as these are inexorably yielding to encroaching modernity. This book portrays some of the important cultural origins of our times, in the form of a novel with strong characters, crazy events, and an appealing, accessible plot.
The protagonist is a thirteen-year-old boy. Along with two younger brothers, he faces the challenges of growing into adulthood as his father faces the challenges of recent widowhood. Neither character comes across as larger than life, nor do various others -- each a character in every sense -- whom we meet along the way. But a common human courage underlies their actions and their eccentricities, reminding us just how large life can be. And if you happen to be looking for an affirmation of the passion to learn, you'll find it here. The telling of this story is direct and vivid; its observations on human foibles and frailties, subtle and delightful.
The bad news is that this wonderful tale eventually ends. The good news is that Doig's other novels also bring us to an imagined past in the great plains. I eagerly anticipate reading them all.