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Bucking the Sun

(Two Medicine Country #4)

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  1,198 ratings  ·  158 reviews
Bucking the Sun is the story of the Duff family, homesteaders driven from the Montana bottomland to work on one of the New Deal’s most audacious projects—the damming of the Missouri River.

Through the story of each family member—a wrathful father, a mettlesome mother, and three very different sons, and the memorable women they marry—Doig conveys a sense of time and place th
Paperback, 416 pages
Published May 13th 1997 by Scribner (first published 1996)
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3.75  · 
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 ·  1,198 ratings  ·  158 reviews

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Jan 02, 2010 rated it liked it
"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
Apr 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Montanans, historical fiction fans, mystery fans
Shelves: book-club, own-it
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
Mark Robbins
Jul 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Edith Clayton
Feb 03, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoy the writing of Ivan Doig. I have been wanting to read this book for a long time. Now I want to visit Fort Peck Dam.
Aug 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karen Klink
Dec 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
"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 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
I love how Doig's novel capture the mood of Depression era Montana. However, unlike his other Montana books, I didn't find any of the characters especially likable. It took me much longer than normal to finish this book because I wasn't especially motivated to find out the fate of any of the Duff family members.
Blaine Morrow
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Rich in detail, exquisite command of language and description - gives a passionate human dimension to the building of the dam at Fort Peck on the Missouri during the Depression.
Sep 03, 2012 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.
May 24, 2018 rated it liked it
This is the least favorite of mine so far in the Two Medicine Country series. What I love so much about the others are the richly drawn and appealing characters; this book certainly has believable characters, but they are none of them appealing. It says something that the most appealing of the lot is a long-time prostitute. This is the longest of the series so far, and it definitely seemed to drag at times. There is also virtually no connection to the other stories in the series; this one takes ...more
Jun 22, 2018 rated it liked it
I found this a bit difficult to read. The novel follows the Duff family, all of whom work on the construction of the Fort Peck Dam in Montana. The characters are well developed and the plot moves rather quickly given the 400 plus pages of the book. I had difficulty not getting bogged down in the engineering details of the dam. And I often tripped over the writing because of sentence fragments, references and colloquialisms I didn't understand. Re-read passages quite often. Still, the story is a ...more
A.B. Michaels
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Ever wonder how dams are built, but don’t want to read a dry, technical explanation about them? Ivan Doig’s Bucking the Sun is a fascinating history and engineering lesson wrapped inside an entertaining family saga, chock full of melodrama and mystery. The Duffs, brought low by the Great Depression, join the work crew of one of the New Deal’s most ambitious public works projects: the building of the Fort Peck Dam over the Montana portion of the Missouri River. The story opens in 1938 with the di ...more
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This novel provided many hours of listening. The Duff family (Father, sons, uncle and spouses) are all employed during the depression building a dam on the Missouri River. For the father, it's the loss of his farm which will be flooded. For one son, it's a opportunity to use his degree in engineering. The richness of the plot lies in the interactions among this family, with an interesting twist I won't reveal. The author takes readers into the hearts of minds of people struggling to survive the ...more
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not my favorite of Doig's books but still a decent read. This one follows the Duff family and is set in the Depression era. It is rich in local color and dialogue but occasionally felt as if Doig was trying tooo hard. He isn't usually heavy handed but this one was a bit much sometimes. There was way too much info about the engineering of dam building. Still, his stories of family tensions, love and jealousy always ring true.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
I was going to rate this book three stars, because for most of it the emphasis is on the history of building a huge earthen dam, and that history is interesting but not ˆreallyˆ interesting. The ending is the most noteworthy part. It's kind of shocking but makes sense when you think about it. Do NOT read the ending first!
Feb 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: adult
Audiobook--reader was fine, but I didn't finish the book.
Same great writing as always, but I don't want to spend time with characters I don't like. There are many characters, some of them likeable, but much time was spent with the ones we don't like, aren't supposed to. You also know that something bad is going to happen, and that weighed heavily on me. Way more sex scenes, too.
Candace Simar
Apr 05, 2019 rated it liked it
This is not my favorite Doig book. It tells the story of a rowdy family all working for the Fort Peck Dam project during the Great Depression. Doig is Doig, and his piecing together of this story is brilliant in places. However, the many points of view and the complicated plot line left me scratching my head through other parts. An okay read.
Dell Taylor
Jul 18, 2017 rated it liked it
My rating: 3.5. I love Ivan Doig!! His writing is always superb. This story didn't interest me as much as many of his others as it focused on the construction of the Fort Peck Dam in Montana during the mid-1930s. However, his complex relationships and the eventual consequences of these family intrigues makes for a great story. I continue my quest to read everything he has written.
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent writer. I love novels that teach and entertain simultaneously. Characters feel real and true to the 1930s time and remote Montana location. Description goes way beyond scenery to the basic engineering of constructing the largest earthen dam of its time--the reservoir it creates stretching more than 130 miles behind the dam. The bit of murder mystery was pulled off very well.
Tait Sougstad
Apr 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
Made it a third of the way through the book. I wasn't enamored with the Duffs in the first place and was getting bored with the plot. As with any other Doig book, I enjoyed the setting and the love of history. But, when husband and wife are in bed and she starts philosophizing on etymologies from a glossary of sex, I got my credit back from Audible.
Jun 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
DNF'd this one. This is the first book of Ivan Doig's that I've tried to read. His prose is nice, but the plot just plodded along and seemed too focused on minute details. The result was I was bored by the halfway mark.
Oct 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Not my favorite Doig book. Excellent characters!!! Fascinating setting.
He includes a lot of technical information which was somewhat tedious in my audio version of the book. A few of the plot events didn't seem true to the characters' natures, though.
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Listened to this on audio.

Fort Peck Dam works as a connecting point, and I was swept up in those parts of the story. Other parts required so much suspension of disbelief. I thought every character, but particularly the women, needed more effective development.
May 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
Had loved Doig's The Bartender's Tale but got bogged down in all the details of building the Ft. Peck Dam. The tale of the Duff family was interesting and convoluted. But the ending was weak - I kept waiting for something huge and it left me cold. But Doig writes beautifully!!!
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lives upturned by dam building on the Missouri. It's the Depression. Car careened over the edge, the man and woman dead are related but their joint fate unlikely.
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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.


Other books in the series

Two Medicine Country (1 - 10 of 13 books)
  • English Creek
  • Dancing at the Rascal Fair
  • Ride With Me, Mariah Montana
  • Mountain Time
  • Prairie Nocturne
  • The Whistling Season
  • The Eleventh Man
  • Work Song
  • The Bartender's Tale
  • Sweet Thunder