An award-winning and beloved novelist of the American West spins the further adventures of a favorite character, in one of his richest historical settings yet.
"If America was a melting pot, Butte would be its boiling point," observes Morrie Morgan, the itinerant teacher, walking encyclopedia, and inveterate charmer last seen leaving a one-room schoolhouse in Marias Coulee, the stage he stole in Ivan Doig's 2006 The Whistling Season. A decade later, Morrie is back in Montana, as the beguiling narrator of Work Song.
Lured like so many others by "the richest hill on earth," Morrie steps off the train in Butte, copper-mining capital of the world, in its jittery heyday of 1919. But while riches elude Morrie, once again a colorful cast of local characters-and their dramas-seek him out: a look-alike, sound-alike pair of retired Welsh miners; a streak-of-lightning waif so skinny that he is dubbed Russian Famine; a pair of mining company goons; a comely landlady propitiously named Grace; and an eccentric boss at the public library, his whispered nickname a source of inexplicable terror. When Morrie crosses paths with a lively former student, now engaged to a fiery young union leader, he is caught up in the mounting clash between the iron-fisted mining company, radical "outside agitators," and the beleaguered miners. And as tensions above ground and below reach the explosion point, Morrie finds a unique way to give a voice to those who truly need one.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have read several of Doig's books at this point in time...8 being several...and generally have enjoyed them all. I DID start my career with him by reading The Blockbuster: The Bartender's Tale. That book (to me) was so so good that I expected all the rest to be just as good and have had to adjust my expectations for the reading of his other works.. So far none have come close to the Tale Perhaps I simply have not found the other "Greats" or maybe The Bartender's Tale was His Best.
Now that I am working on Book Number 9: Work Song I have more items by which to judge his works He may/may not be The Mark Twain of Montana, but he certainly has done an extremely good job of putting the Western portion of that State on the map for me and has begun to fill in the blanks on other areas also.
Work Song is set in Copper, as it were, and definitively paints the portrait of a handful of its' characters while providing wide brushstrokes of other to fill in...
Just finished "Work Song", right after reading the wonderful "The Whistling Season". I was kind of dismayed. Morrie was such a terrific, intriguing, unusual character in "The Whistling Season". I'm surprised that Doig turned him into such a straight-ahead vanilla narrator in this book. Perhaps an "odd ball" HAS to be viewed in the third person to make his quirkiness come to life. (And why is he always flinching, in fear for his life, in the latter half of the book? The man who faced down the ogre Brose Turley in "The Whistling Season" wouldn't be such a nervous nelly!)
"Work Song" just didn't have the depth and intensity of its predecessor, and it kind of messed up a wonderful character.
(Don't miss Doig's finest, "English Creek" and "Dancing at the Rascal Fair"!)
This work can be criticized as light, frothy, and improbable fantasy, but, at least the fantasy is more realistic than the run of modern sensational novels that have the hero (in the name of justice!) committing a dozen murders per week, numerous explicit sexual encounters, or autos flying 30 feet high through the air and exploding upon impact (crashing cars in books and movies always explode - in reality, not that many do!). In my view the last thoughtful novels were written in Victoria's last years, but Doig at least gives a distracting pleasure to one's day. (I should would like to know how Morrie knew about the Black Sox scandal - and bet property, not his own, on the Series).
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