Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Heart Earth” as Want to Read:
Heart Earth
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Heart Earth

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  522 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
Ivan Doig grew up with only a vague memory of his mother, Berneta, who died on his sixth birthday. Then he discovered a cache of her letters--and through them, a spunky, passionate, can-do woman as at home in the saddle as behind a sewing machine, and as in love with language as Doig would prove to be. In this moving prequel to his acclaimed memoir This House of Sky, Doig ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by Mariner Books (first published 1992)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Heart Earth, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Heart Earth

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 20, 2008 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Ivan Doig is one of my favorite writers. Of Scots descent, he writes of the Montana territory settled by his forebears and the country is an overwhelming character in all his novels. This book is a memoir inspired when he was given letters his mother sent to her brother fighting in the Pacific during WWII. The country and the characters will be familiar to anyone who has read "This House of Sky," one of his finest novels.
Oct 20, 2009 Gloria rated it liked it
Doig adds to the autobiography of "This House of Sky" with this short book based on letters from his mother to his uncle. Because his mother died on his sixth birthday in 1945, he grew up knowing very little about her. When his uncle died in 1986, his cousins sent him a small box of letters written by his mother to her brother during the last years of World War II, the last years of her life. A treasure to Doig, he makes a lyrical and lovely book based on these letters and what he learned about ...more
Jan 10, 2010 Sskous rated it really liked it
The first book I read by Doig was fabulous (The Whistling Season). This one was a bit of a disappointment, only because it was not quite as good. Still, it was an engaging story I wanted to follow, filled with characters I liked very much. I suppose the only thing that keeps it from being rated a 5 is the writing. Strange, that is, too, because Doig is a first rate writer. Still, in Heart Earth he sometimes, and too frequently, turns too cute a phrase. I would have liked it all better if he'd wr ...more
Sherelyn Ernst
Jul 12, 2010 Sherelyn Ernst rated it liked it
As usual, Ivan Doig makes Montana, and, this time, Arizona, fascinating. The book is thin, in length and in substance, but it is worth reading if only for a glimpse of a land, characters inextricably connected to the land, and a time (around WWII) that is a part of our history and culture even if many of us are unaware of it. This is homage to Doig's mother, who died when he was young, but his feelings for her and his family and the land that shaped them are masterfully conveyed.
Jul 13, 2010 Sandra rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lisa N
Aug 24, 2010 Lisa N rated it liked it
This memoir was a little harder to read than Doig’s fiction, yet I enjoyed it. He pieces together recollections of his mother, who passed away on his 6th birthday, from memory and from letters she wrote to her brother serving in WW2. An interesting and very personal glimpse of a hardscrabble existence and the close relationships that existed therein.
Apr 19, 2011 Kani rated it really liked it
I love Ivan Doig. His writing is like a good painting; in fact, I would go on to say, that reading Doig's writing is like seeing a Laura Von Rosk painting!, a landscape clear & beautiful, yet not quite real. It is in this impressionist version of his mother's life during his young life that he honors the mother he knew but can't quite remember (she died when he was 6). Through letters that come to him late in life, a gift he may have wanted sooner but was ready for when received, he learned ...more
Sep 22, 2011 Nancy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After his original memoir, This House of Sky, it was very interesting to revisit his early life from the perspective of his Mother's letters to her brother. I enjoyed reading about the same people again and learning more about them. I especially enjoyed the obvious research that Ivan had done to include information that had not been in his earlier memoir. In this book as in his others, his descriptions of the places and times are as entrancing as his portraits of the characters.
Sep 25, 2011 Vicky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recently reread both This House of Sky and Heart Earth. If you have read This House of Sky and not Heart Earth, you must read it. It is the "prequel" to his first memoir in that it is about his mother Berneta Ringer Doig. This memoir is based on the letters sent by his mother to her brother Wally during the last year of WWII while he was stationed on the carrier Ault in the South Pacific. As much I as like This House of Sky, I think of the two this one is my favorite. It is such a beautiful lo ...more
Nov 08, 2011 Kurt rated it liked it
The author reminisces about his early childhood during the final months of World War II as his family moved from Montana to Arizona and back to Montana. Ivan Doig's mother passed away from an asthma attack on his sixth birthday in June, 1945. In the preceding months she had written a series of letters to her brother who was aboard the USS Ault in the Pacific. In the early 1990's this brother passed away and bequeathed his package of letters to his nephew Ivan, the author. The letters evoked in h ...more
Jan 28, 2012 Diane rated it it was amazing
Reading Ivan Doig is like reading poetry. His metaphors are gorgeously arranged and his love of words is apparent to the reader. He has a wry humor through the worst of experiences. Doig's mother died on his 6th birthday and he chronicles his subsequent life with his father and grandmother in This House of Sky. Heart Earth was written later after the discovery of some letters that were written by his mother to her brother Wally. Wally was at war in the Pacific in the 1940's and saved the letters ...more
Apr 09, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
As a sometime writer, I am always humbled by Ivan Doig's rapturous rendering of human experience in the written word. His love of language is a perfect match for the sense of wonder he brings to whatever he's writing about, and he can spin what is often a simple idea into a lengthy interweaving of carefully observed details and nuances of feeling and gentle humor.

He does that here with a handful of letters written by his mother from Arizona and Montana to her brother on board a Navy destroyer in
Steven Howes
Aug 05, 2012 Steven Howes rated it really liked it
To me, this book is a sequel to or supplement of the author's memoir "This House of Sky". In my mind, the books should be read in order to fully understand what is going on although this book is powerful on its own. Ivan Doig has written several outstanding novels but his personal story in "This House of Sky" is one of the most compelling and heart-wrenching I have read. Not only is it is an almost tragic life story, but the reader gets a good description of what ranch life in mid-20th century M ...more
Aug 18, 2012 Francesca rated it really liked it
Ivan Doig's memoir of his mother who died too young at age 45 and on his 6th birthday. Told through her letters to her mother and brother overseas in the South Pacific during WWII, the reader becomes friends with this extraordinary "outback" woman, whose roots grow deep into the Montana landscape. Ivan Doig's prose is sheer poetry; his images vivid portraits of the Western landscape he calls home.
Debra Daniels-zeller
Oct 02, 2012 Debra Daniels-zeller rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir, audio
This is a prequel to Ivan Doig's memoir House of Sky, a book that I haven't read and I'm not sure I will. I listened to the audio version of this because I wasn't sure I'd like his writing. I thought at first, that I should have read House of Sky because I kept losing interest in the narrative, but as I listened I realized I'm not a big fan of Doig's voice. I'm not sure I could take another book filled with tons of metaphors and similies and not much story. The sentences were well crafted but it ...more
Oct 10, 2012 Wally rated it it was amazing
Doig writes so beautifully, I could read his books without stop. Heart Earth is a memoir of his mother during Doig's life, i.e. 6 years. You not only feel you know and appreciate this strong young woman, who has serious health problems, but also you begin to know and appreciate Doig's father, grandmother, uncle and Doig himself. And, as with all of his books that I have read (3), you develop a wonderful sense of Montana! Finally, consider the title, heart earth, the same letters except in the fi ...more
Dec 01, 2012 Tamara rated it liked it
This a short memoir focused on the author's mother who died when he was six. Doig writes beautiful descriptions of his Montana home and their brief residence in Arizona. While the story is relatively short, it touches on so much; the struggles of his family during the depression, references to WWII battles, his parents love story and the duality of his mother's fraility and strength. It is a lovely story.
Cynthia Archer
Dec 19, 2012 Cynthia Archer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a lovely book written about the author's family, particularly his mother prior to her death on his 6th birthday. I have not read any other books by Mr. Doig, but I certainly will after this. I truly enjoyed his writing style as well as the beautiful way he says things. His descriptions of the places they lived as well as everyday life were so lovely. I was drawn into their struggles both in Montana and Arizona. The characters come alive as well and you feel what they are feeling. I enjo ...more
May 01, 2013 Linda rated it liked it
After reading Doig’s fiction, I was interested to know more about the man. This is the first two autobiographical books he has written -- Ivan’s mother died on his sixth birthday, and “Heart Earth” tells the story of those early years of his life. “This House of Sky” takes up after his mother’s death as his maternal grandmother brings up Ivan while they follow Ivan’s father from ranch to ranch wherever he can find work.
Sharon Huether
May 17, 2015 Sharon Huether rated it really liked it
Ivan Doig's mother died on Ivans 6th birthday. He remembers what he can about his mother. It's not enough. He discovers an old tin box, filled with her correspondence to family during the War years 1940-1945. He uses these letters in thhis book about his mother and family. The author writes in a lyrical style.
Jan 15, 2014 Chrissie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio, usa, audible, 2014-read
I in fact loved listening to this book. Why? Because I came to understand the real events that the author has drawn in his books of fiction AND simply because of the way the author expresses himself. There is humor and poignancy and the western dialect is fun too. You simply must read this book if you have read his books of fiction. It is really better than his books of fiction.

But it is too short. I am so very tired of short books, and maybe that is why I didn't give it more stars. Very unjust!
Jan 15, 2015 Sarah rated it liked it
I read This House of Sky years ago, and didn't really like it. While well written, the languid prose left me with an impression of impressions, kind of like trying to make out the details in a very faded photograph. The characters, including Doig himself, remained mysterious. I was unsatisfied.

Heart Earth was better. Perhaps in part because it was more succint, and in another part because Doig had something concrete to write from, other than his own waning memories: His mother's letters.

After sh
Lynne Spreen
Feb 01, 2015 Lynne Spreen rated it liked it
What a great idea: to write a memoir of one's boyhood, reconstructed from memory and a cache of letters between his deceased mother and her brother, the writer's uncle. This is a glimpse into early-mid-century Americana, with ultra-rural ranch life to the war years in a ghetto boomtown of factory Arizona. However, I ran out of patience with this promising book.

Although his descriptions of landscape and relationship are poignant and evocative, Ivan Doig gets in his own way. It's almost as if he's
Jun 09, 2015 Sherry rated it liked it
Ivan Doig is a very good writer and I enjoy all he has written. This was one of his earlier books and as usual his prose is elegant, possibly too elegant. My brain had to work at understanding what he was saying because almost every sentence was descriptive. He didn't explain he described by using other words. It was really intreguing and I would find myself rereading some of the paragraphs just to get the true meaning. He described Arizona and Montana so well. He fleshes out each person so I co ...more
Jun 01, 2015 Ron rated it really liked it
Very interesting memoir told in an interesting and unusual fashion. Ivan's mother died when he had just turned 6 years of age. As time moved on his memories of her were pretty dim. Much later in life he was bequeathed a collection of letters upon the death of his Uncle Wally. These were letters that his mother had written to her brother who served on a navy destroyer. Together with Ivan's own memories and historical knowledge he recreates and shows us the hardships of the early and WWII home-fro ...more
Nancy Peacock
Aug 18, 2015 Nancy Peacock rated it really liked it
This is the second time I've read this book. The first time it made me burst out in tears. I did not cry the second time, but I was moved. I'm always amazed at Ivan Doig's unique way with words, and he got me laughing throughout with his droll humor, and the things his parents said to each other. A love story of both people and land.
Terry Earley
Oct 06, 2015 Terry Earley rated it liked it
Letters can be treasures. In this case, a surprising discovery of letters written by Doig's mother gave him some powerful insights into the mind and heart of the mother he lost on his 6th birthday.

This loving memoir of the time he was very young is captivating reading. Doig is professional enough not to sugar coat uncomfortable things about his parents and family.

Having just read "Last Bus to Wisdom", I can see where life feeds fiction. --Save those old letters and journals!
Oct 14, 2016 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf-memoir-bios
Doig probably enjoyed combining his memories, the info in his mother's letters, family stories, and the history of the times to create this book. One of these days, I'll read "This House of Sky," which continues the family story. (Setting: mainly Montana, some Arizona)

Doig tries too hard to write colorful sentences with unusual word usage. Example: "Amid this whirl of tartan cowboys, the one to watch is the shortest and dancingest, a goodlooking jigger of a man built on a taper down from a wide
Olivia Farr
Aug 27, 2016 Olivia Farr rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
In "Heart Earth," Doig is exploring the possibilities of his mother through a series of letters she had sent long after she wrote them/died. He was only 6 when she died, so his memories are limited and he includes these along with anecdotes from things left behind and told to him. It is relatively short, as you would expect for such an exploration with limited information. The language is very detailed and things move relatively slowly. On the one hand, it's lovely to see a son learning about hi ...more
Peter Faur
Oct 16, 2016 Peter Faur rated it liked it
In this prize-winning prequel to his acclaimed memoir This House of Sky, Doig brings to life his childhood before his mother’s death and the family’s journey from the Montana mountains to the Arizona desert and back again. He eloquently captures the texture of the American West during and after World War II, the fortune of a family, and one woman’s indomitable spirit.

Read more:
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Thuggin In Miami (The Family Is Made : Part 1)
  • Heart Mountain
  • Hole in the Sky: A Memoir
  • Winter: Notes from  Montana
  • Indian Creek Chronicles: A Winter Alone in the Wilderness
  • Where Rivers Change Direction
  • Breaking Clean
  • Off Main Street: Barnstormers, Prophets & Gatemouth's Gator: Essays
  • Battleground Pacific: A Marine Rifleman's Combat Odyssey in K/3/5
  • The Same River Twice: A Memoir
  • Seldom Disappointed: A Memoir
  • Claiming Ground
  • A Romantic Education
  • Riding the White Horse Home: A Western Family Album
  • About This Life
  • Andersonville
  • Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs
  • All But the Waltz: A Memoir of Five Generations in the Life of a Montana Family
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...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“I am a writer, not a transcriber.” 1 likes
“But earth and heart don't have much of a membrane between them. Sometimes decided on grounds as elusive as that single transposable h , this matter of siting ourselves. Of a place insisting itself to us.” 0 likes
More quotes…