Mountain Time by Ivan Doig
Finished on June 27, 2016
Rating: 3/5 (So-so)
At fifty-something, environmental reporter Mitch Rozier has grown estranged from Seattle's coffee shop and cyber culture. His newspaper is going under, and his relationship with Lexa McCaskill is stalled at "just living together." Then, he is summoned by his sly, exasperating father, Lyle, back to the family land, which Lyle plans to sell in the latest of his get-rich schemes before dying. Lexa follows, accompanied by her sister Mariah, and the stage is set for long-overdue confrontations -- between lovers, sisters, and father and son. Mountain Time is distinguished by humor and a wry insight into the power of family feuds to mark individuals and endure. Set against the glorious backdrop of Montana mountain country, it is a dazzling novel of love, family, and the contemporary West.
I don't believe I've ever read anything by Ivan Doig, but I know he was quite revered as an writer of the American West.
Ivan’s work earned him comparisons to Wallace Stegner, from whom he inherited the informal title “dean of Western Writers.” Indeed, the Center for the American West awarded Ivan the prestigious Wallace Stegner Award in 2007, and he was the recipient of the Western Literature Association’s lifetime Distinguished Achievement award. He is the recipient of more awards from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association than any other writer, among numerous other honors. (from his website)
Doig passed away on April 9, 2015 and I still hadn't read any of his books, so this past summer I finally pulled an ARC (printed in 1999!) of Mountain Time off my shelf and settled in to be wowed. I was quite impressed with Doig's beautiful, poetic passages and would often stop to read them a second time, more slowly, and again maybe a third time, out loud to my husband.
Whether these particular mountains were thinking or not, they were showing unclouded brows as they paraded past the right-hand wingtip when Mitch flew back to Seattle in the morning.
Lassen and Shasta, Jefferson and Hood, Adams and Rainier, the fire alps of the Cascade Range shone in the sun one after another, dormant pyramids of glacier and snow higher than hell and once upon a time as potent. He knew that on a day this drastically clear even the lonesome cone to the north, blue-white Mount Baker, would be out and waiting to make its appearance when the plane hooked above Lake Washington into the SeaTac landing pattern.
This was her most regular route, down past the Ballard taverns favored by Henry Ingvaldson and the other old vikings of drink and then across the ship canal locks and up through a shoreline neighborhood to a grove of alders along the railroad tracks where great blue herons nested. This she had figured out for herself, that the gorgeous featherduster birds populating the waterways of Seattle must have a heronry not too far, and she had watched their flight patterns to find the spot.
She had her binoculars on the treetop stick nests and the floppy young birds--Come on, Junior, poke your head up a tad more--when the seaplanes started going over. Nine A.M. sharp, Lexa knew without having to check her watch, the Lake Union float-plane fleet launching. A minute apart, they laboriously skied the sky, following the ship canal out to Puget Sound and then purring off northward to weekend places in the San Juan Islands. Seattle wasn't as overrun with seaplanes as Alaska, but close.
Sky as clear as a vacationing meteorologist's conscience, sailboats sprinkled on either side of the floating bridge across Lake Washington like white tepees on a vast blue prairie, Mount Rainier sitting passive and massive over Seattle's southern horizon, even the chain-link commuter traffic grinding along less glacially than during most so-called rush hours- Mitch could scarcely believe such a death spiral of a day could yield an evening like this.
Mountain Time is a nonlinear narrative (not my favorite), set in the Pacific Northwest (definitely my favorite!). The story begins in the Seattle area, but moves on to Montana. I enjoyed the beautiful writing, but the plot wasn't as compelling as when the focus was on the Pacific Northwest. Sadly, I was ready to be finished with this book at the halfway point. I do still want to try another one of his novels and welcome any recommendations.
All photos are mine and were taken on various trips to the Pacific Northwest.