What a thrill to walk into a bookstore and see a new title from a favorite author and, though somewhat less thrilling, is the anticipatory excitement of a website announcement of an upcoming release date. Each new book by Ivan Doig provides me with an eagerness to rush home and crack open the book to enter what is always a captivating journey through the pages.
My early introduction to the western lands seen through the eyes of young Jick McCaskill in English Creek made me feel like I knew this young man, and the names of the characters and places in and around English Creek, Montana certainly add color to the palate of Doig’s storytelling prowess.
His most recent book, Sweet Thunder, follows Morrie Morgan, a character who makes a return from Doig’s previous novels, as he comes back to Butte, Montana with his wife. Set in the 1920’s, with the backdrop of the copper mining industry, the story seems to preface the same type of ecological damage and poor conditions for workers that are seen in many mining and manufacturing operations today. Conflict in the novel centers in part on the money grabbing greed of industry executives and corrupt political influence, and as is typical with Doig’s writing the vividness of the characters, situations and settings create a sense of the reader being present at the time.
In Doig’s Morrie, I find a character that at times I don’t even like, yet I am also hopeful for him to find success in the many circumstances that he encounters. That Doig can illicit a reaction in me, so that I can dislike a character yet feel compelled to keep reading and root for a positive outcome for Morrie and his wide variety of companions, is a tribute to Doig’s ability to develop a tale that the reader becomes a part of.
Reading Sweet Thunder recreated the same sensation that I’ve discovered anew with all of Doig’s books, that of being so drawn in by the connections between the characters and the situations that I become as invested in the outcome as the characters appear to be.