English Creek, by Ivan Doig

Ivan Doig is one of my favorite fiction writers. His books, set in the West and Pacific Northwest, seem to me to be the literary equivalent of walking softly while carrying a big stick. Filled with cowboys and ranching and men who work hard but say little, Doig's characters and stories speak immense truths in the most unassuming ways. This particular novel, sequel to his famous "Dancing at the Rascal Fair," is a bit heavy on the ranching information, but no less powerful when getting down to the nitty gritty, as, for example: "People. A pain you can't do without." "English Creek" is ostensibly a coming of age story - Jick, a few months shy of fifteen, bridges the awkward gap between child and adult - but it is more about the end of an era, heralded by cars and telephones and World War II. I could have done without so many detailed descriptions of haying and of the national forest; these make the first hundred pages or so a little difficult to push through. After that, the story picks up, and it became easier for me to fall into Doig's writing the way I always do. Though this isn't my favorite Doig novel, it is still beautiful and moving, and as always, I look forward to discovering more of his work.


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