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Bucking the Sun (Two Medicine Country #4)

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  1,105 Ratings  ·  141 Reviews
The widely acclaimed author of This House of Sky and English Creek now gives readers his richest brew of a novel yet--a grand saga set against the making of an inspired and tragic American monument, Fort Peck Dam. "Ivan Doig is a writer whose work makes readers recall why they love to read".-- The Washington Post.
Hardcover, 412 pages
Published May 1996 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1996)
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Jan 02, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Recommends it for: Montanans, historical fiction fans, mystery fans
Shelves: own-it, book-club
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: western-us
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karen Klink
Dec 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
"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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dell Taylor
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.
Jun 17, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
May 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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!!!
Evan McKinney
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great tale about Ft. Peck Dam.
This was a tough one, so very technical and detailed. I got the gist of the story but had a hard time understanding the engineering aspect. The details of the car in the dam was a surprise.
Sep 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good. Liked it, didn't love it. Harsh life of early 20th century. Thought the story something; storyline was lacking somehow. Didn't connect well with the characters. Interesting setting, though.
Patrick Gaughan
Dec 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite novel by Ivan Doig.
Jun 24, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have enjoyed all of Ivan Doig’s books that I have read so far, but I was disappointed in this book, and the reviews I’ve read online seem to agree with me. Doig does a good job with characterizations of people and their family stories but there seems to be confusion about whether the main character is the Fort Peck Dam, or the Duff family who work there. The Fort Peck Dam in Montana was one of FDR’s work projects during the depression, but I didn’t learn much about the dam and its construction ...more
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
This should really be a 2.75 rating.

First, and I've said this before about him, Ivan Doig writes like a motherf*cker. One page in his book = 10 pages in another slightly above average novel. So you have to be prepared. And you have to be patient. And you have to really not mind reading about engineery dam stuff in the late '30s.

Second, his pages are so packed that you literally sit up straighter when you encounter the interesting scenes sprinkled here and there and you hope they explode into som
Kristi Richardson
This is my first Ivan Doig novel and I wasn't impressed much. I love Will Patton's narration, but even he seemed off on some of the pronunciations in this book.

The story about the building of the Fort Peck dam during the Roosevelt years and the Duff clan started out interesting with the discovery of a couple naked in a truck dead. We know they are both of the Duff clan, but not married to each other. If there was only more excitement after that the story might have been saved.

Owen Duff is the c
Thom Moore
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the book. I am a Doig fan and have read most of his books. Like most of his readers I enjoy the Montana books best that deal with the ranchers, etc as in "English Creek", "Dancing At The Rascal Fair" and his brilliant memoir, "This House of Sky." "Bucking the Sun" by comparison to those is a "pot boiler tale" or if you will, a whodunit. That being said, it is wonderfully told and has a twist at the end that had me baffled; didn't see it coming ! As in each of Mr. Doig's books, there is a ...more
Aug 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. It was a history I knew nothing about: the building of Fort Peck dam in eastern Montana. This WPA dam took out a lot of bottomland farmers along the Missouri River to protect the farmers downstream from the repeated flooding in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. Since there were more wealthy farmers downriver the upriver farmers had to give way, get bought off their land and help build the dam that took their land away. It was a short term solution to getting jobs and ...more
Tio Stib
May 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic book, overwhelming at times. I was awed by the consistent high quality of the story, the poetic narrative, the compelling characters, the interesting and often suspenseful story, the richness of detail, the reality of the words. It all moved like a river running down from its mountain source, flowing, surrounding, buying, overpowering, never-ending, relentless. All the ragged edges eventually washed smooth. Everything, everyone ultimately pulled into an immense oneness. 

Yes, I was aw
Jenny Price
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Doig is amazing! this book is entertaining and alive.
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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 about Ivan Doig...

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
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