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Bucking the Sun (Two Medicine Country #4)

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  916 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
Not since Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath has there been a family saga as powerful as Bucking the Sun or a family as compellingly strife-torn as the one at its center. Driven by drought from their Montana farm to "relief work" building the Fort Peck Dam, the Duff family spans the extremes of the times, from the eldest son Owen, who has made his way through college to an en ...more
Audiobook, 0 pages
Published January 1st 1999 by Simon & Schuster Audio (first published 1996)
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Jan 02, 2010 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Bucking the Sun" makes even clearer Ivan Doig's worthiness to succeed Wallace Stegner as the foremost chronicler of lives in the American West, though in fact they weren't that far apart in age; Doig just got a later start. This fine novel about the construction of the Fort Peck Dam in Montana, a 1933-38 endeavor that was a flagship of FDR's New Deal WPA projects, seems the most, well, Stegnerian of Doig's books that I've read so far. I still prefer Stegner, but Doig hasn't disappointed me yet. ...more
Mark Robbins
Jul 26, 2015 Mark Robbins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bucking the sun is the expression given to riding, or driving, into the sun and maintaining your gaze forward enough to see your immediate path while averting your eyes from being blinded by the horizon. There are many layers to this work and each character has a struggle and point of view the the author respects. The book follows five dyads of the Duff family (who like many Doig characters share connections to the Two Medicine country in Montana) as they are shaped by the construction of the Fo ...more
May 23, 2015 Kris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Montanans, historical fiction fans, mystery fans
Shelves: own-it, book-club
I love Ivan Doig's writing! He captures Montana like no other writer I've come across. This book is slightly different than the others I've read in that it's kind of historical fiction. It's set during the depression, when the WPA decided to build a dam on the Missouri River, in northeastern Montana, at Ft. Peck. But in typical Doig style, it's also the story of a family, the Duffs, whose lives are entwined with the building of the dam. The father, Hugh, is a farmer along the river, upstream fro ...more
Apr 22, 2014 Carol rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Bucking the Sun" starts with the discovery of two bodies and the promise of a mystery to be solved. This "mystery" was hardly mentioned again and turned out to be little more than a footnote. In the meantime, I learned about dam building, New Deal projects , and Communist politics of the era. This was not my favorite book from this author who is usually top notch. It was slow reading for a while as I didn't really understand (nor was I interested in) all the engineering aspects of dam building. ...more
Aug 21, 2012 Leslie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful story of family--love, hard work but also jealousy and betrayal. It is all set among the thousands impacted by the Depression who flocked to Ft. Peck, Montana from 1933-1938 to build the largest dam on earth at that time -- and the most ambitious project of FDR's economic stimulus projects. He visited there twice. Over 20,000 people labored during the most intensive phases-- living in tarpaper shantytowns full of bars and brothels--with summer temperatures over 100 and winter ...more
Oct 31, 2008 Joan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ivan Doig's writing is so rich - rich in information, relationships, emotions. In Bucking the Sun he fascinated me with descriptions of the building of the country's (world's?) largest earth damn, one of the WPA, get the country back to work projects during Roosevelts tenure. And the family of 3 brothers whose family farm is due to be flooded by the dam is a rough and tumble, real life family of love and tension. There's a murder described at the beginning that actually occurs at the end so you ...more
Edith Clayton
I've loved others by Doig, but this one was a disappointment. It jumped around so much between characters and scenes, sometimes with less that half a page on one character before jumping to another, that I really couldn't get to know or appreciate any of them. It didn't help any that their language, which I guess was supposed to be clever, often baffled me. (I kept thinking 'I must be dense because I don't get this,' but goodreads reviews tell me I'm not the only one.) Also, I think I was suppos ...more
Karen Klink
Dec 15, 2012 Karen Klink rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like everything I've read by Ivan Doig, though, for me, this one was a bit of hard going when it got into all the engineering details of the dam. What masterful structure (circular form) and story development though! Wonderful characters, especially the willful Duff family and their involvement in the building of Montana's Fort Peck Dam in the 1930s. A hard-drinking father, meddlesome mother, three sons and their wives, plus one conniving uncle, make for quite a disturbing mix with the various ...more
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Blaine Morrow
Aug 13, 2014 Blaine Morrow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Doig tells an epic tale of a family from Scotland struggling to deal with change and nature in Depression-era Montana. His writing is reminiscent of Ken Kesey in this story - a departure from his style as I've seen it in other novels. The man can write, and this is a delicious tale.
Kristi Richardson
This is my first Ivan Doig novel and I wasn't impressed much. I love Will Patton's narration, but even he seemed off on some of the pronunciations in this book.

The story about the building of the Fort Peck dam during the Roosevelt years and the Duff clan started out interesting with the discovery of a couple naked in a truck dead. We know they are both of the Duff clan, but not married to each other. If there was only more excitement after that the story might have been saved.

Owen Duff is the c
Jun 20, 2015 Nancyann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A word of advice: Make sure to read Bucking the Sun prior to reading The Bartender's Tale as characters from the first book will reappear in the second. I read them out of sequence and would have enjoyed both more if read in proper order. That aside, Bucking the Sun is an entertaining story of a family of Duff men, their feisty women, their triumphs and tragedies while all involved in the building of one fine Montana dam during the depression. The book begins with the discovery of a submerged tr ...more
Sep 06, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm listening to this audio version of the book, which I read after paddling the Missouri near where this book took place.
It was better the second time around.
Tio Stib
Oct 15, 2014 Tio Stib rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic book, overwhelming at times. I was awed by the consistent high quality of the story, the poetic narrative, the compelling characters, the interesting and often suspenseful story, the richness of detail, the reality of the words. It all moved like a river running down from its mountain source, flowing, surrounding, buying, overpowering, never-ending, relentless. All the ragged edges eventually washed smooth. Everything, everyone ultimately pulled into an immense oneness.

Yes, I was awe
Aug 14, 2010 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have enjoyed all of Ivan Doig’s books that I have read so far, but I was disappointed in this book, and the reviews I’ve read online seem to agree with me. Doig does a good job with characterizations of people and their family stories but there seems to be confusion about whether the main character is the Fort Peck Dam, or the Duff family who work there. The Fort Peck Dam in Montana was one of FDR’s work projects during the depression, but I didn’t learn much about the dam and its construction ...more
Aug 31, 2009 Kani rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. It was a history I knew nothing about: the building of Fort Peck dam in eastern Montana. This WPA dam took out a lot of bottomland farmers along the Missouri River to protect the farmers downstream from the repeated flooding in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. Since there were more wealthy farmers downriver the upriver farmers had to give way, get bought off their land and help build the dam that took their land away. It was a short term solution to getting jobs and ...more
Jul 29, 2013 MaryJo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I took an imaginary trip to Montana this summer, instead of a real one, and read Ivan Doig's book about the construction of the Ft Peck dam on the Missouri River in the 1930s. This is a part of the state about which I know little, and, I have a growing curiosity about life along the Missouri river from its origins in Trident to where it joins the Mississippi, near where I now live. I found the content of the book fascinating; the story of the response to Roosevelt in general, and in particular, ...more
Feb 11, 2009 Lindsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was all set to give this five stars until the last few pages threw me for a loop. From the very first chapter, you know what's going to happen at the end, but the mystery was who specifically was going to be involved. I had several guesses based on the little hints dropped along the way, but I was completely baffled by the actual outcome. I like when authors add a surprise twist that's not really a surprise when you trace your footsteps back through the story; what I don't like--and what I fel ...more
Bonnye Reed
Nov 22, 2014 Bonnye Reed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An exciting and intimate look at the FDR's New Deal" and it's effects on Montana and the nation. Building the earthen dam over the Missouri at Fort Peck, Montana eventually employed thousands of men and women and changed the lifestyle and expectations of families of the depression era. We follow a family, farmers and their three diverse sons, from the hardscrabble farm to the community of workers in and around the dam area. I found this novel at times enchanting and often frustrating, with the s ...more
Jun 03, 2014 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the historical part of Ivan Doig's Depression era historical novel Bucking the Sun - but the novel part, not so much. The details of the construction of the Fort Peck Dam were fascinating, but I never really warmed up to the characters and the dialogue just never rang true. If you want to read a really great novel about the building of a great dam (in this case the Hoover Dam) - I highly recommend that you search out Waterborne by Bruce Markoff.
This novel chronicles the building of the Fort Peck dam on the Missouri River in Montana during the depression. As usual Doig has created vivid characters with complex and troubled relationships. .

2014 - 3rd reading: After reading Doig's The Bartender's Tale with its references to the events in Bucking the Sun and considering the details I had forgotten after 16 years, I had to revisit the craziness that surrounded the inimitable Duff clan as they built (or not) the Fort Peck Dam. Doig fleshes
Jul 11, 2008 Reid rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not one of his best. I had been told that Doig wrote a few books that were not up to the same standard as the ones I love, but I had never encountered one until now. The odd thing is, if I had to tell Doig what to do to improve this book, I would probably tell him to go read a good Doig book! It seems to me that the best of what he writes focuses narrowly on a few well-loved people and landscapes and lavishes deep care on their description. In this book, he takes on an entire family, places them ...more
Jan 26, 2016 Pat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
1930's Montana. Construction of the Fort Peck Dam across the Missouri River. Story of the Duff family - parents Hugh and Meg, and their three sons - Owen (dam engineer) and brothers Neil and Bruce. All involved in some way in the construction. Partial collapse of the dam in 1938.
the story itself was interesting although I had a hard time following his writing style sometimes. I liked the characters and the overall story. I preferred some of his other works to this one but since I lived in Montana for so long it captivated me to read a story based on an area of Montana.
Carla Handley
I read the quotes about Doig being the best Western writer; I don't think this book reflects that very much. His character writing is good, and his setting of the era is good. I really didn't like the ending. He seemed to run out of steam and just threw two people into the truck with little foreshadowing in the rest of the book. He had a lot of time to spend setting up possible twosomes in the 5 couples; the two people he chose seemed to have little reason to be there based on their previous act ...more
Aug 23, 2012 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

This was the first of Doig's books that I've read. I love historic fiction, so thought this book would be in my wheelhouse; unfortunately it didn't live up to my expectations. I was bored at times and felt the descriptions of Fort Peck Dam confusing. An Illustration and map would have been useful. I think he missed some opportunities to provide more insight about the dam from an engineering and historical perspective. I don't know what those specific insights are, but now I have to do some rese
Joanne Heins
I really like Mr Doig, and I loved this book. He can really paint a picture of place, very good character development. Read this after I listened to The Bartender's Tale on CD. LOVED the Bartender's Tale
May 23, 2015 Jackie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Throughout the book, I had a hard time identifying the characters. The who is who dilemma. At the end I found out the audio was an abridgment. That explains it all, not that I now know what happened to whom.
Oct 05, 2014 Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I like Ivan Doig and his characters and I like big construction projects, so this was in my wheel house. It might have been a little long and maybe even verged on melodrama, but overall it's an enjoyable history (maybe some of it was true) about how the Fort Peck Dam was built.
Nov 25, 2014 Ginni rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sorely needs an editor. Much too detailed descriptions of myriad aspects of dam building. Rambling plot -- only thing missing was the kitchen sink. Uber contrived denouement.
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Ivan Doig was born in White Sulphur Springs, Montana to a family of homesteaders and ranch hands. After the death of his mother Berneta, on his sixth birthday, he was raised by his father Charles "Charlie" Doig and his grandmother Elizabeth "Bessie" Ringer. After several stints on ranches, they moved to Dupuyer, Pondera County, Montana in the north to herd sheep close to the Rocky Mountain Front.

More about Ivan Doig...

Other Books in the Series

Two Medicine Country (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • English Creek
  • Dancing at the Rascal Fair
  • Ride With Me, Mariah Montana
  • Mountain Time
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