Heart Earth

Heart Earth

4.5 2
by Ivan Doig
     
 

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With its powerful echoes of a family and its fate, HEART EARTH is the fitting companion to Doig's THIS HOUSE OF SKY. Against the backdrop of WW II, the Doigs migrate from boomtime Arizona to the high country of their Montana origins. It's a drama that builds as only real life can.

Doig re-creates the nomadic existence of his adventurous mother, miraculously brought

Overview

With its powerful echoes of a family and its fate, HEART EARTH is the fitting companion to Doig's THIS HOUSE OF SKY. Against the backdrop of WW II, the Doigs migrate from boomtime Arizona to the high country of their Montana origins. It's a drama that builds as only real life can.

Doig re-creates the nomadic existence of his adventurous mother, miraculously brought back in the evocative lines of her wartime letters. Doig's father gives off the "tense hum of a wire in the wind" as he works to make his family secure. And a child, "touchy and thorough, doctrinaire and dreamy," looks out through a curtain of years.

"Doig makes readers recall why they love to read, writers why they wanted to write in the first place." (Washington Post)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In poetic and precise prose, Doig has crafted a worthy complement to his acclaimed memoir, This House of Sky. While that book concerned family tensions after his mother Berneta's death in 1945, here, prompted by a cache of his mother's letters to her sailor brother from that year, Doig recreates a life ``the five-year-old dirtmover that was me'' could hardly have known. He describes life in an Arizona housing project for defense workers, where his family moved to spare his mother's asthma. He tracks down his Uncle Wally's old beau, about whom his mother wrote. He recalls the battle between his grandmother and father over his mother's medical condition, ``the geography of risk'' and the family move back to Montana ranching. Doig's writing is immensely quotable--listening to his elders was ``prowling with your ears.'' What makes this book so touching is that, through letters, Doig realizes how much he, the writer, owes to ``this earlier family member who wordworked.'' (Sept.)
Bill Ott
When "This House of Sky" appeared in 1978, it was immediately apparent that a new and important voice in the literature of the West had come to the podium. Doig's succeeding works have more than justified that initial reaction, but, until now, he has chosen not to return to the autobiographical form that launched his career. Here, then, is the book "House of Sky" fans have been anticipating for 15 years. It's a kind of prequel to "Sky", which told the story of Doig's growing up in the Montana high country as the third member, along with his father and grandmother, of an unconventional but loving family. Now, thanks to a cache of letters given to Doig by his uncle, we are allowed a glimpse of young Ivan's mother, who died of asthma in 1945, when Ivan was six years old. Berneta Ringer Doig and her husband, Charlie, belonged to a now-vanished breed, the "lariat proletariat," ranchers without land who worked other peoples' spreads "on shares." Berneta's wartime letters to her brother, Wally, recount the loneliness, exhaustion, and exhilaration of the ranching life and chronicle a winter spent in exile in Arizona, where the family had come in search of dry air for Berneta's ailing lungs. Doig fills in between the lines, drawing on research, his own childhood memories, and those of other family members whom he was able to interview What emerges is a portrait of a family under siege--from illness, from the rugged Montana winters, from economic hardship--but also a family held together by a special mix of stubbornness and love. "If a couple loves one another enough they can overcome most anything that comes along," writes Berneta to her brother. That's a sentiment you can find on almost any Hallmark card you pick up, but context is everything, and here, spoken by an asthmatic cowgirl who died a few months later, the words are hard earned and anything but sentimental. For "House of Sky" devotees, and for anyone who cares about the West and the ties that bind rugged individuals, this is a book to treasure.
Michael Dorris
Like Doig's This House of Sky, this book repeatedly proves the power of language. Ivan Doig uses words like oil paint to create canvases of enduring value and originality.
Los Angeles Times
Kirkus Reviews
Fifteen years after This House of Sky, Doig (Ride with Me, Mariah Montana, 1990, etc.) returns to his earliest days in another profoundly original and lustrous re-creation. Inspired by wartime letters (just recently presented to the author) from his mother to a favorite brother stationed in the Pacific, Doig traces his family's struggles from Montana ranches so isolated that "weather was the only neighbor" to the shared hopes of an Arizona defense workers' housing project and back to Montana, with its steady string of natural indignities. Doig's parents eke out a living, always on the verge of better times despite the shadow of his mother's asthma and the prevalence of daily hardships: coyotes near the sheep ranch; infested one-room houses; road mud "thick enough to float a train." His mother's death comes without warning, on the author's sixth birthday, just as the sheep are ready for shearing and a certain healthy profit. "Nobody got over her," Doig writes, "those around me in my growing-up stayed hit." Doig captures the serial disasters, as well as several cherished family scenes—including a lunch of Spam sandwiches and lime Kool-Aid—with the clarifying beauty and sure shaping hand of his first book. Even when mining some of the same material that appeared there, he claims new territory for the significant figures in his life.

The Seattle Times
“Doig at his best: fresh, vivid language energizing his keen insight.”
Los Angeles Times - Michael Dorris
“Like Doig's This House of Sky, Heart Earth is a book that repeatedly proves the power of language... Ivan Doig uses words like oil paint to create canvasses of enduring value and originality.”
From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR HEART EARTH

"Like Doig's This House of Sky, this book repeatedly proves the power of language. Ivan Doig uses words like oil paint to create canvasses of enduring value and originality."—Los Angeles Times

"A lyrical evocation of the Doigs' gallantly hardscrabble existence and love for the unforgiving Montana mountains."—San Francisco Chronicle

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780792719175
Publisher:
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
03/01/1994
Edition description:
LARGEPRINT
Pages:
182

Read an Excerpt

Heart Earth


  • Dear Wally—

    . . . I shouldn’t even be writing you my troubles but I have to spill over to someone. I’d just like to have you around so I could put my head on your shoulder and cry.

    . . . It is going on one and we haven’t had dinner yet. Charlie is resting and I thought the rest would do him more good than eating. Ivan is out in the backyard building roads. He had a foxhole dug you could bury a cow in.

  • Meet the Author

    Ivan Doig (1939-2015) was a third-generation Montanan and the author of sixteen books, including the classic memoir This House of Sky and most recently Last Bus to Wisdom. He was a National Book Award finalist and received the Wallace Stegner Award, among many other honors. Doig lived in Seattle with his wife, Carol. Visit IvanDoig.com.

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    Heart Earth 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
    Drann More than 1 year ago
    Based on the letters his mother wrote to his uncle during World War II, Doig is able to construct an understanding of his mother who died when he was young. Anyone who has lost a parent at an early age would long for the information provided in his mother's letters to a beloved brother fighting in the War. Doig has the ability to draw a reader in and to enable that reader to share in his sorrow, but the book is by no means a "downer." His mother's life was short, but it burned bright with love.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This is a heartfelt true story about a time in the west, and a family bound to each other by the hardships of life. I couldn't put it down. Ivan Doig writes from the heart.