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Heart Earth

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  469 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
Acclaim for Ivan Doig's work begun with his 1978 memoir, This House of Sky. With powerful echoes of a family and its fate, this terrifically appealing companion builds with the drama and characters that only real life can hold.
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published September 8th 1993 by Scribner Book Company (first published 1992)
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(showing 1-30 of 892)
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Lynne Spreen
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
Apr 09, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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!
Terry Earley
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!
Jun 01, 2015 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 01, 2014 Sherri rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The author, Ivan Doig was shaped early on by the death of his mother. She died of an asthma attack in the days when there were no such things as inhalers or other types of medications to help with asthma.

This book is primarily about Doig's growing up years and his relationship with his father and other members of his family and community.

Unfortunately, I don't think Doig told this story as well as he has told some of his fiction books. (For example, here are two that I wrote reviews on: Sweet Th
Jan 15, 2015 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nancy Peacock
Aug 18, 2015 Nancy Peacock rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 wedge of shoulder to wiry tireless legs." I kept wanting to say, "Just talk to me! Tell me the story, don't bury it in words."

Doig probably enjoyed combining his memories, the info in his mother's letters, family stories, and the history of the times to create this bo
Jun 09, 2015 Sherry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Steven Howes
Aug 05, 2012 Steven Howes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 25, 2011 Vicky rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
Debra Daniels-zeller
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
Jan 28, 2012 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Harry Lane
Nov 20, 2014 Harry Lane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Doig is a fine writer. In this sort of a memoir, he describes the lives of his parents as reconstructed through letters found long after his mother's death. The narrative paints a picture of the hard work for little reward experienced by the poorer people of the west during the depression and after, but also of the character of those people. Makes one thankful for modern conveniences.
Jan 08, 2016 Ferris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This installment of Ivan Doig's autobiographical stories of life in Montana is one of his shortest books. Doig's prose, eloquent as ever, is focused on his mother, Berneta, who died when he was young. As I work my way through Doig's books I feel that I am connecting more and more to his family, his life in Montana, and his prose. Fascinating!
Courtney Oppel
Although I went to hear the author read from this book at the University of Montana in 1994, I didn't pick up this book until I'd moved to the East and found myself homesick for Montana. From the first page, I was hooked. This is still one of my favorite Doig books, as well as an all-time favorite.
Jan 10, 2010 Sskous rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Connie D
Jan 26, 2016 Connie D rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love the way Ivan Doig writes, lyrically and concisely evoking a whole world of feeling; he sees such humor, poetry, and intensity in each moment and place. Somehow he notices everything.. A sweet, sad, funny memoir of his childhood and his mother.
Jan 26, 2016 Pat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part II of Ivan Doig's memoir of his family and their life in Montana. His mother died on his 6th birthday but his picture of her is enhanced by letters between her and her brother, a WWII soldier, that are given to Ivan when that uncle dies. Part I of the memoir if House of Sky.
Sep 27, 2015 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A long time Doig fan, I loved reading about his early life.

An adventurous and powerful story built on old letters and memories. I recommend this book. Read it even if you've never read his books before, you will.
Oct 20, 2009 Gloria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 10, 2015 Pamela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rooted in place

The last book. A heartrending memoir created to explore a mother's life and death. A reader can feel the joy and sadness, as well as the celebration.
Mark Valentine
Good, but after reading This House of Sky, I found it flaccid and weak.

Oh, well. I liked it but not enough to write home about.
Mar 23, 2014 Mikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't realize this book was a prequel. I'll read the next one. I loved Dancing at the Rascal Fair, and hope to read others.
Sep 18, 2015 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
spare with beautiful turns of phrase
an excavation of childhood war memories and re-creation of family
Donna Dalziel
Aug 12, 2015 Donna Dalziel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
This author is superb. He paints a vivid portrait of each and every one of his characters. He is full of insight and understanding. He writes a marvelous book filled with meaning. I am so sorry he has passed away.
Oct 10, 2012 Wally rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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.

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“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
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