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English Creek

(Two Medicine Trilogy #1)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  4,548 ratings  ·  422 reviews
In this prize-winning portrait of a time and place—Montana in the 1930s—that at once inspires and fulfills a longing for an explicable past, Ivan Doig has created one of the most captivating families in American fiction, the McCaskills.

The witty and haunting narration, a masterpiece of vernacular in the tradition of Twain, follows the events of the Two Medicine
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 1st 2005 by Scribner (first published 1984)
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A River Runs Through it and Other Stories by Norman MacleanThe Whistling Season by Ivan DoigThis House of Sky by Ivan DoigDancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan DoigMontana 1948 by Larry Watson
Best Montana Books
267 books — 159 voters
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryTrue Grit by Charles PortisBlood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthyAll the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthyBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
Best Westerns
1,007 books — 1,210 voters

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Average rating 4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,548 ratings  ·  422 reviews

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Mar 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, alt, audible, life-stages
I found English Creek even better than Dancing at the Rascal Fair, which is a favorite with many, not just me. The weird thing is that "English Creek" is the first of the series but chronologically it follows "Dancing at the Rascal Fair". I think it is better to read it after "Dancing at the Rascal Fair"! Ride With Me, Mariah Montana is the next one I will pick up. Check out all of the "Two Medicine County" series:

I love the way Ivan Doig captures the essential both in physical descriptions of the land, the dialog
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
From forest fires to sheep counts, haying season to a whizbang Fourth of July celebration, Jick McCaskill moves through the summer of 1939 in Montana's Two Medicine country. For Jick it's "The Summer When..." He begins noticing a lot of things, including the fact that "time is the trickiest damn commodity," and he won't be a boy for very much longer.

Full of charm and drollery, English Creek is not for the easily bored, but it's worth the patience if you want to see how an author can sometimes make the language
Jul 01, 2009 rated it did not like it
While I appreciate the attraction of this story is the Montana Lore and coming of age trick, I found this book doggedly hard to read. I felt I was being lectured. The basic rule of good writing is consistently violated: 'show, don't tell.' Some delightful imagery did not substitute for lack of action. I read this book as a book club selection and therefore committed to finishing, but I passed over many pages of pure, repetitive description. My instincts tell me this book/story should have been c ...more
Dec 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes I want to burn through a book because I need to see what’s going to happen. Other books seem to drag out forever because of an uncompelling plot or characters I don't care about, and I might not even finish those books for lack of interest.

Then there's Ivan Doig's English Creek. Beautifully written, the story languidly moves along through the main character, Jick MacGaskill, who is looking back on the boy he was at 14, growing up as the son of a forest ranger in the mountains outside of Gro
Lisa N
Nov 12, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: unfinished
Ivan Doig is a favorite author, but I found this to be a disappointing book.

It had a pretty good beginning (from chapter 1): “The fracture of a family is not a thing that happens clean and sharp, so that you can at least calculate that from here on in it will begin to be over with. No, it is like one of those worst bone breaks, a shatter. You can mend the place, peg it and splint it and work to strengthen it, and while the surface maybe can be brought to look much as it did before, the deeper v
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A 5 and here’s why. I love a teenage boy narrator when it’s done so right as this. Jick is as honest and forthright as a kid that age can be and more importantly highly observant. Not every teen boy is but I know a few personally who are. If you take the time to listen to them when you stumble on them you will never quite think the same again.

This book is that. He tells the story of the summer when his whole family takes a bend. It is 1930s Montana and his father is a forest ranger.

There is pl
Jan 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have to laugh at myself for thinking it would take forever to read these 300-some pages of dense type, I who think nothing of rereading the 900-some pages of Bleak House over and over. I thought I wasn't going to enjoy this book. Why, I really don't know. But I loved it. The narrator is charming. The Two Medicine country might as well be another of the book's characters. (I'm sure I've read of landscapes being like novel's characters, but I'm not sure I've ever really thought so before.) There ...more
Ivan Doig may be an regional writer, but his themes are universal. Summer, 1939 in Montana comes alive through the eyes of 14-year-old Jick McCaskell, and we experience his life on the ranch, at the community picnic and 4th of July Rodeo, haying, and finally through the deadly forest fire. There are lots of Depression-era details and history, but this is really a tale of family, land, and landscape and the roles they play in a young man's life. Family dominates; his brother, who has taken up cow ...more
Jun 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Well I didn't expect this. The subject matter and setting would leave one expecting a plain spoken book with taciturn people, perhaps emphasizing plot and local color over style. But Doig is a beautiful stylist, one of those writers you can enjoy just for his sentences and surprising phrases, not just the larger work.

The story is about Jick, a fourteen-year-old in Montana trying to navigate a summer working with his father in the forest service (in a place where fires are the great c
Jan 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, fiction
I LOVED The Last Bus to Wisdom and although this has a similar tone to it, it didn't resonate as much. Another coming of age story, this is about 15 year old Jake who is growing up in Montana during the 1930's. The beauty behind this story is the description of the setting. The country is suffering from the Depression and even the sheep and cattle farmers in Montana are struggling. Jake's father is a forest ranger and the whole concept of National Parks is relatively new. I definitely enjoyed reliving ...more
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
My nephew (and his family) just moved to Montana, and I went along to watch the kids so they could focus on cleaning, unpacking, and doing all of the other work that goes with a major move. Since I always make time to read, I searched my shelves for appropriate books to pack. Being overly optimistic, I choose three titles set in Montana; this is the only one I actually found time to read, and then I only made it through half of the book.

Having read one other title by Doig, I anticipa
Mar 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historic-novel
My favorite of Doig's Montana stories really culminates in this sequel. The loss of connection that can occur over just one generation, the break in families over time if stories are not told. From immigrant settlers first tentative foothold in the rockies told in "Dancing at the Rascal Fair" to a fully established Forest service and how the family came to be tied to this land but no longer close with the first ranger in its service at English Creek. The two need to be read in order for the full ...more
Jan 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Michelle by: TKE
Shelves: western-us
Another quiet book about Montana--this one is set in northern MT along the Rocky Mountain front. In the summer of 1939, 14 year old Jick is dealing with his parents' disagreement with his older brother about his future and the schism it has caused in the family. Jick spends the summer trying to sort out what is happening around him, while he takes on one physical task after another in rural Montana: counting sheep with his father, digging a new hole for the outhouse, haying, serving as a flunky ...more
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
For me, this book ranks right up there with 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' and 'The Autobiography of Malcolm X' as far as memoirs - or whatever you call a work of fiction written in memoir form - that convey the moment in time/history that they're placed in as well as the identity of, and personal transformations that occur within, the narrator. Combine that with the author's patient, contemplative pacing - perfectly suited to the setting of the book in the historical pause between the Great Depressi ...more
Mark Robbins
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In Doig's work every character's decisions, and motives, regardless of their immediate concern, are framed by how they will live life on the land in a particular place. In this telling, the narrator is demonstrably leaving boyhood behind yet attributes to age his inability to discover the antecedent events that might explain the stations and relations of those around him. Doig provides a series of beautifully rendered experiences for this young man, assisting a camp tender, haying for his uncle, ...more
Aug 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a story of a family, of relationships, of coming of age, of the hard scrabble ranching life during the 1920's and 30's, and the story of a region and its geological and geographical foibles.

Doig has a marvelous way with descriptions. Describing the protagonist's best friend: "He was a haunting kid to look at. His eyes were within long deepset arcs, as if always squinched the way you do to thread a needle. And curved over with eybrows which wouldn't need to have been much thic
Robin Nicholas
Aug 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It takes place during the summer of 1934 in Montana. Doig does an amazing job painting a picture of the land, the times, and the people of this rural Montana sheep and cow farmland. The real story though is the story of Jick, 14 years old almost 15. He is really at a crossroads in his life....on the verge of becoming a young man. Jick is the type of person that analyzes everything and everyone. This summer is full of new experiences and the realization that as he grow ...more
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, older-ya
I think this is one of the best coming of age novels I ever read. I'm glad my book club selected it so I would reread it. Growing up in Montana in the early 20th C is depicted beautifully as the 14 year old narrator begins to ask questions.
May 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Much better read the second time around.
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read for summer book club at my suggestion. This is the 3rd time I have read it, and I still find it very fulfilling and moving. This was written before the other two books in Ivan Doig's Montana Trilogy. Several GR reviewers have said they think it should be read in its chronological order in the Trilogy, which would make it the second title. Without knowing Doig's intent about doing a 3 part series, I think that defeats what I think must be his vision of introducing Jick and letting us get to ...more
Kiwi Begs2Differ  ✎
This is an ode to early 20th century way of life in Montana. I enjoyed other novels by the author more than this one but sure I learned a lot about rangering, sheep herding, fire fighting, country fairs and rodeos. 3.5stars.

Fav. quote:

I somehow knew even then, that the fracture of a family is not a thing that happens clean and sharp, so that you at least can calculate that from here on it will begin to be over with. No, it is like one of those worst bone breaks, a shatter. You/>
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading this is like taking a long, warm, relaxing bath. In fact, I should have thought of reading it in the bath! You relax into Doig's prose, are lulled by its cadence, charmed by the bubbles, and are contented when you finish.
Barb Flory
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. I am a huge fan of Ivan Doig and I look forward to reading the rest of this trilogy. Wonderful descriptions of Montana and its history. Great characters.
Judy Decaigny
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a slice of life from one important summer in a young boy’s life. Doig’s writing puts you right in the time and place with the characters. Love his wonderful writing. Marvellous descriptions of the countryside.
Jim Leffert
Mar 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
This middle book of Doig’s trilogy about the McCaskill family of Montana lacks the abundance of sharp humor and eventual emotional punch of its predecessor, Dancing at the Rascal Fair. Still, if you were hooked by the first book and possess a moderate to high Sitzfleisch Quotient to keep you parked in your chair, you may want to plow through it, and, moreover, you may feel rewarded. The story leisurely unfolds over the summer of 1939 through the eyes of almost 15-year old John Angus “Jick” McCas ...more
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I adore Ivan Doig's books. His writing style, rich language, quirky characters and the setting of "the Two" takes me on a journey to Montana and pulls me into the scenery and lets me lose myself in the story.
Bonnye Reed
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
A coming-of-age novel set in late 1930's Montana, I'm sorry to say I didn't find it back in 1984 when it first appeared in print. Better late than never, but I am having problems trying to find the two sequels to this family saga. This is a tale that requires you to pay attention, but in a mild mannered way. I will look for the series to buy, so I might add them to my read-repeat library shelves along with Cormack McCarthy, Charles Frazier, Barbara Kingsolver. This is one you will not be able to ...more
Feb 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
I'm going through a phase where I'm obsessed with reading about mountains and the early 1900s in Western states, so this book was exactly what I was in the mood for: it's a novel about a family living in a small town in Montana along the border with a national forest. The father is a USFS ranger and the townspeople do a lot of ranching and grazing. Ivan Doig writes beautifully. The pace was a little slow -- everything from action to scenery is described painstakingly (kind of like in a short sto ...more
Aug 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
English Creek takes place in Montana and follows early settlers of the land, just after the National Parks were created in the USA. A book about relationships--those between humans, but also those between humans and the land. Great descriptions of life at that time and about Montana.

I really enjoy Ivan Doig's turn of phrase, choice of word and story. It took me a while to decide if I wanted to like this book--not because I didn't enjoy reading it from start to finish, but somehow it
Oct 23, 2010 rated it liked it
The dynamics of Jick's family change forever over dinner one evening. As the youngest child in the family, he tries to understand what happened, delving into even the mystery of parents who once were young.

I loved each member of his family. And I feel I understand one of my sons better by reading about Jick's brother. I just have a difficult time with the profanity. Growing up in a farming/ranching family, I am well acquainted with irritation caused by recalcitrant animals, but Utah farmers see
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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

Other books in the series

Two Medicine Trilogy (4 books)
  • Dancing at the Rascal Fair
  • Ride With Me, Mariah Montana
  • The Montana Trilogy Boxed Set: English Creek, Dancing at the Rascal Fair, and Ride With Me, Mariah Montana
“Life is wide. There's room to take a new run at it.” 6 likes
“... hindsight is always through bifocals: it peers specifically instead of seeing whole.” 1 likes
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