Imagine growing up in a ruralandnbsp;western town in 1909.andnbsp;andnbsp;In his affectionate homage to an earlier place and time, The Whistling Season,andnbsp;Ivan Doig paints a portrait of life in Marias Coulee, aandnbsp;fictional town in the dryland farm country of Montana.andnbsp; Paul Milliron, age 13, recalls the summer hisandnbsp;father, recently widowed and trying to raise three sons, advertised for a cook to keep house.andnbsp; In answer to his ad, Rose Llewellyn arrives with the announcement that she can't cook, but she can sure clean - and she whistlesandnbsp;as she works.andnbsp; It turns out that Rose has brought along her brother Morrie, who handily steps into the role of teacher at the local schoolhouse after the schoolmarm runs away withandnbsp;the andnbsp;minister.
Life turns sweeter for the Milliron family as Rose takes over the household and Morrie takes over the education ofandnbsp;a roomful of children, grades 1 through 8, from an assortment of backgrounds.andnbsp; Morrie, despite his lack of teaching credentials,andnbsp;uses his wide-ranging intellect,(including expertise in astronomy, Latin, birds, and English recitation) toandnbsp;make his lessons lively.andnbsp; His encounters with recalcitrant farm boys andandnbsp;feuding familiesandnbsp;areandnbsp;the stuff of gripping drama.andnbsp;
Paulandnbsp;thrives under Morrie's tutelage, andandnbsp;is completely enthralled by Rose and her brother until the day he discovers the dark secret in their past that brought them to Marias Coulee. Will theandnbsp;whistling season come to an untimely end?andnbsp;
Ivan Doig's eighth novelandnbsp;paints a nostalgic and vivid picture of life in rural Montana in the early 1900's.andnbsp; We learn about the challenges of dryland farming, the hard conditions of life during drought and poverty, and the beauty of the western landscape, told in lush, gorgeous prose that contrasts withandnbsp;such a dry, spare life.andnbsp; Richly painted characters people the finely drawn setting in this highly readable tale.andnbsp;andnbsp;I wishedandnbsp;I could have been a student in Morrie's one-room schoolhouse.
Doig'sandnbsp;sequel,andnbsp;Work Song,andnbsp;follows Morrie as he settles in Butte, Montana. It will be released in June 2010; I can't wait to readandnbsp;it.