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This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,645 Ratings  ·  394 Reviews
Ivan Doig grew up in the rugged wilderness of western Montana among the sheepherders and denizens of small-town saloons and valley ranches. What he deciphers from his past with piercing clarity is not only a raw sense of land and how it shapes us but also of the ties to our mothers and fathers, to those who love us, and our inextricable connection to those who shaped our v ...more
Paperback, 314 pages
Published February 19th 1980 by Harcourt, Inc. (first published November 30th 1977)
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The Whistling Season by Ivan DoigA River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman MacleanThis House of Sky by Ivan DoigDancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan DoigEnglish Creek by Ivan Doig
Best Montana Books
3rd out of 162 books — 120 voters
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Stories For Book Lovers
204th out of 1,198 books — 3,144 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 30, 2016 Jeanette rated it it was amazing
This book is exceptional. It's slow, and needs to be read patiently. Preferably in chapters over many days. And there is description excellence far beyond my poorer degrees of explaining in succinct reaction.

The language used, the names appointed, the locales are exquisitely placed. Sometimes in wordy and anecdotal flourish, but ironically also accomplished in a way in which there are actually no extra words. Each verbal phrase or dialect nuance for the sheep and cattle herding country drills a
May 24, 2012 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have your read the novels of Ivan Doig – those, such as The Whistling Season and/or Dancing at the Rascal Fair? If you have and enjoyed his writing, then I believe you will enjoy this too. I would recommend reading the novels first. These novels are really not novels! One comes to understand as one reads about Doig’s and his father’s and his maternal grandmother’s life, as they are presented in this biography, that his fiction talks of his own true life experiences. In his novels you get a tight ...more
Nov 12, 2008 Alyson rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Chris, Shelley, Sarah, Amanda
An absolutely beautiful and prosaic account of rural Montana, family, carving an identity for oneself, and the process of acceptance. This is the first Doig I have read- after hearing praise for years from my father and others. If ever there was a memoir to read, this is it. As a semi-native Idahoan familiar with rural lifestyles and landscapes, I was moved to tears and beyond with his painful and glorious story.
Jul 02, 2014 Larry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ivan Doig is my wife's favorite author. I'm certain she's read every one of his books, and there have been several. And since he lives in our area, she has taken me along several times to listen to him read from his new work as it came out. As a result, I tried to read one of his fictional books some time back and immediately ran into what seems a trait of Doig, a trait of starting the reader out with an avalanche of descriptive text. To me, it feels like a lifetime to work through a single para ...more
May 18, 2016 Mark rated it really liked it
“On that ranch where dreams were trapped in rock...”

This is a wonderful memoir about Doig's life growing up, in the rugged wilderness of western Montana. It captures a time and place that seem so distant now and his incredible recollections of working as a sheepherder and the brutal struggles, of living on a ranch, are poignant and unflinching. The true heroes of the story are his father, Charlie and his grandmother, Bessie. Pioneers, with big hearts and thick skins. I love this description of a
Nov 03, 2011 Matt rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in western life, love, memory, parenting
One of the best reads I've had in a long time. Touching, brilliantly and vividly descriptive. Ivan Doig's words are textures, fabrics. You are transported through time and place to his memories, his fantastically detailed memories, reaching back to six years old, his mother's tragic early death. Doig and his father and grandmother are a somewhat unlikely trio, but their lives are filled to the brim with Montana, ranching, growing up, and endless copious amounts of love and tolerance.

This story t
Mar 02, 2011 Diane rated it really liked it
Diane C:
This House of Sky is a memoir written by Ivan Doig. It is a book to be savored, read slowly and then reread to fully absorb his beautiful language. It reads very much like a novel and covers Doig's life in Montana after his mother's death when Doig was only six years old. It's a hard-scrabble life but rich with imagination, grueling work and love. This is also a story of family, particularly fathers and sons. The surrounding characters on the ranch and in the neighboring town are like y
Aug 18, 2010 Sandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I did not want it to end! I absolutely love Ivan Doig's language and to have it grace his memoir was wonderful. I was in Montana in the early 1900's - I could feel the characters and touch the landscape. His description of his father's death is incredibly moving. I saw the genesis of his fiction that I so enjoy. I think I enjoyed this as much as The Whistling Season - and that's saying a lot!
Nancy (NE)
Jun 19, 2015 Nancy (NE) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio-memoir
Elegant and yawning narrative of growing up in the west at a time when to be literate meant knowing how to tame the challenges that animals, land and weather brought. He imparts a simple communion among his extended family that is articulated in few words but an unflinching understanding of their mutual love. Doig writes about his somewhat fractured childhood, how his father tried raising him alone after his wife's death. Doig deeply respects his father's Montana roots. The ties to that way of l ...more
Jul 24, 2016 HBalikov rated it it was amazing
I do have relatives in some remote places and when I talked to this one about discovering Ivan Doig, she said that he was a great writer, known far beyond his native Montana, and that she had read several of his books and was glad I was finally starting to catch up.

This House of Sky is a memoir that begins with a very young Ivan and his father Charlie’s loss of (respectively) mother and wife and Ivan’s growing up in some of the most remote country in the lower states during the post-World War II
Aug 25, 2010 Todd rated it really liked it
I couldn't agree more with the review given:

This haunting, magnificently written memoir introduced an important American writer. Now, in its Fifteenth Anniversary Edition, Ivan Doig's preface provides stirring details of the making of this memorable book. Ivan Doig grew up in the rugged, elemental Montana wilderness with his father, Charlie, and his grandmother, Bessie Ringer. His life was formed among the sheepherders and characters of small-town saloons and valley ranches as he wandered beside
Sep 14, 2011 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: western history lovers
Recommended to Judy by: Anne Reach
This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind paints the history of the Doig and Ringer families amidst the taming of the wild Montana hills. This isn't only a story of battling the elements but cobbling together a family for young Ivan after the death of his mother. This meant Grandmother Ringer and his father, Charlie, drawing a truce after years of harsh words and stony walls of resentment towards one another.

What I liked:
*Doig is a gifted, polished writer not content with using a basic vo
Apr 16, 2015 Linda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: montana
I've read some of Ivan Doig's later novels but had never taken the time to read This House of Sky, a memoir of his years growing up in Montana in the 1940s and 50s. Doig's death this past week (April 9, 2015) made me turn to his 1977 memoir, and I'm so glad I did. Beautifully written descriptive of the Montana landscape and the characters who formed his early world, especially a tribute in part to his father and maternal grandmother.
Kathy Halsan
Aug 30, 2013 Kathy Halsan rated it it was amazing
Ivan Doig's memoir of his young life in Montana is one of the best books I have read. I am traveling to Montana soon and thought I would read this before I go. Doig is one of my favorite authors and I wanted to visit some of the sites and see scenery found in his books. His characters are always complex, interesting and "salt of the earth". In Sky, Doig writes of his father and Grandmoher who raised him. His Dad was a ranch hand and Grandma was a crew cook. My Dad, Mom and Grandparents were farm ...more
Sharon Huether
Jun 25, 2013 Sharon Huether rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobiography
This House of Sky:Landscapes of a Western Mind By Ivan Doig I was intrigued by this book because Ivan Doig is a writer from Montana. I think this is his best book so-far. I read it I few years ago. Where he grew up was a place I was familiar with. He grew up with the land. It dictated their lives. He learned responsibility at a young age. At the time of his youth there were many characters in the small local towns. He brought out the scenes of times that were simipler. This is one of the best bo ...more
Mar 12, 2014 Colleen rated it it was amazing
I'd heard of Ivan Doig but until my book club chose This House of Sky, I had not read any of his works. I could add my comments on how beautifully written the book is, but the critics have already done that. The descriptions of ranch life in Montana reminded me of my Dad who liked visiting Montana. The difference was that Doig's family cared for sheep vs. the cattle Dad enjoyed. However, the big open spaces, the ranch life, the challenges were very similar to much of what my parents experienced ...more
Mar 19, 2015 Becky rated it really liked it
What an amazing memoir! This son of a Scottish immigrant growing up working the fields of Montana is rich in family and place. The family relationships are fluid, diverse, and adaptable. Ivan's mother dies when he is six, and his gruff, tough, and humane father does what it takes to provide. We meet two women in his life -- Ruth, through a brief misfit marriage to his father; and his grandmother (mother's side) who appears also to be a misfit with an antagonistic relationship with his father, bu ...more
Nov 12, 2007 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Just beautiful. I can't even remember the different reactions I had when I read this book. I just remember being captivated by the writing, and I went on to recommend this (and Doig's fiction) to book-loving friends.
Mar 05, 2014 Chris rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
A young boy loses his mother and follows his dad from ranch to ranch while his dad ekes out a living. This was not the book I thought it would be, at least the first 120 pages. It was slow and not grabbing my attention and it was depressing. It's more about family than a place and about a time-really it's a labor of love. It's about memory. I wish I could tell my life story like Doig has done. I'm glad I stayed with it because I was rewarded with some great stories about sheep, perseverance, and ...more
Jan 31, 2008 Ciara rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have ever read. His prose is incredible! I would recommend this to anyone interested in pioneers or Montana.
Nov 23, 2015 Ferris rated it it was amazing
Review disclaimer: My maternal grandmother grew up on a Montana ranch. Her best friend was the daughter of Judge Rankin, whose name was apparently a curse word amongst other ranchers and ranchhands. Jeannette Rankin became my mother's godmother, and the first woman elected to the US House of Representatives, so I felt a special kinship.

My, oh my! Ivan Doig, always a master of lovely prose, applies his gift to his autobiography. The reader is immersed in the landscape of Montana and it's reflecti
Jul 07, 2016 Margot rated it it was amazing
Although I’ve read many of Ivan Doig’s novels which in turn has made him one of my favorite authors, nothing made me feel closer to the man himself than reading This House Of Sky. Yes, I know it’s a true story of his life, yet it was way past real. I felt as if I was right there beside him all the way. His beautiful descriptive language not only helped me see the landscape, but it made me feel a wide range of emotions from sadness to anger to elation to frustration to hope.

I did not want to let
Jun 03, 2016 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobio-bio
There is no way to do justice to the beauty of this book. It is beautifully written, the language is evocative and it is a wonderful tribute to land and family and the ties that bind us to each other. Sheep and high country are part of my heritage as well and I could hear echoes of my father's stories in the stories in the book.

Scotchmen and coyotes was the only ones that could live in the Basin, and pretty damn soon the coyotes starved out.

Once you get used to her spit infinitives, you'll find
Emily Damron-Cox
Oct 24, 2014 Emily Damron-Cox rated it it was amazing
This House of Sky Landscapes of a Western Mind by Ivan Doig

Sometimes the most breathtaking books are the hardest ones for me to review. Such a one is This House of Sky, Ivan Doig's memoir of his growing up years in 1930-40s Montana. Few authors manage to sustain the pure language of poetry for over 300 pages, but Doig does. In 1975, after spending half the day reworking the opening sentence of his manuscript, he confides in his journal:

"It would be magnificent to do the entire book with this slow care, writing it all as highly charged as poetry--but w
Mar 01, 2010 Yarak12065 rated it it was amazing
Like "Angle of Repose", this western epic has pitched a barbed-wire fence at its entrance, daring the reader to get at the bounty within. "Angle"'s fence was the self-pitying diatribes that one had to grimace through to get to the rich descriptions of mining life in the last half of the 19th century. "Sky"'s barrier is the language of the author. Doig starts his book with difficult-to-digest semantics, possibly an attempt to meld the Scottish and Nordic language patterns of the book's characters ...more
Jan 05, 2013 Kim rated it it was amazing
Loved this book; filled with heartbreak, love, everyday living, the dilemma of families. Just a very special book. Favorite quotes: "Taylor was a talented storyteller-- it was as if his voice put a rich gloss on anything it touched-- and while he had been in New York singing at society parties, white writers such as Van Vechten urged him to make a manuscript of his stories of early-day White Sulphur. They steered him to a publisher and illustrator, and shepherded his guesswork grammar into print ...more
Jan 03, 2013 Sherry rated it it was amazing
Ivan Doig is trumpeted as a younger Wallace Stegner. There is similarity as both write about the west and write with beautiful words about family relationships.
The House of Sky is Doig's life growing up rough and tumble in Montana. He was born the same year as me so that made an interesting contrast for me growing up in Utah and New Mexico. There were similarities but mostly differences as he had no mother, his father was a hard working drifter trying to make a living and his grandmother becam
Angela Gaskell
May 29, 2011 Angela Gaskell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, memoir
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 04, 2009 Walt rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Memoirs of Westerners
Recommended to Walt by: Kristin Purdy
Ivan Doig grew up in Montana. In this book, he talks about his experience growing up there. He tells about the severity of life there in general, and, more specifically, about the severity of his life growing up. Of course, having graduated from a college in the same Big Sky Athletic Conference as are the Montana universities, I was familiar with the terminology, big sky. And I was familiar with Big Sky Country. That, of course, was Montana. His title --- this house of sky --- relates, I think, ...more
Memoirs can be problematic, as there is often too sacred of a belief that consummate answers are to be gleaned from the examination of family, history, and lineage. And when this ancestral journey unfolds across the grand, unforgiving western landscape it is commonly assumed that the adventures and answers therein will be even more dramatic and profound. In This House of Sky, Ivan Doig has written an eloquent and moving memoir, one that is equal parts story and tenacious investigation. But it’s ...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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“The spaces between stars are where the work of the universe is done.” 26 likes
“There is more time than there is expanse of the world and so any voyage at last will end.” 5 likes
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