The Whistling Season
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Product Description

"Can¡¯t cook but doesn¡¯t bite." So begins the ad offering the services of an "A-1 housekeeper" that draws the attention of widower Oliver Milliron in the fall of 1909. And so also begins the unforgettable season that deposits the noncooking, nonbiting, ever-whistling Rose Llewellyn and her font-of-knowledge brother, Morris Morgan, in Marias Coulee, Montana. When the schoolmarm runs off with an itinerant preacher, Morris is pressed into service, setting the stage for the "several kinds of education"¡ªnone of them of the textbook variety¡ªMorris and Rose will bring to Oliver, his three sons, and the rambunctious students in the region¡¯s one-room schoolhouse.

A paean to a vanished way of life and the eccentric individuals and idiosyncratic institutions that made it fertile, The Whistling Season is Ivan Doig at his evocative best.


Customer Reviews:

  • Evocative, poignant and beautifully written!
    The Whistling Season is an homage to a lost way of life, the homesteading prairie farmers and their children who attended a one-room schoolhouse. This story is told from the perspective of Paul, the eldest and most intellectually gifted son of a recently widowed dry-farmer in Montana. Paul is fortunate to have a father who is well-read and supports the life of the mind. Unfortunately Paul is haunted by dreams and nightmares that leave him perpetually exhausted.

    Paul's father, Oliver, and his two brothers are devasted by the death of Paul's mother and struggle to keep the household together with the loss of the essential skills of the homemaker. Hiring a housekeeper, Rose, brings not only cleanliness and harmony to the home, but a new schoolteacher to the community. The school teacher is Rose's brother, Morris. Morris' love of learning and theatrical style inspire the children in the tiny schoolhouse. Ultimately the story turns on how these newcomers fit into and transform this little community.

    The strengths of this novel are in its vivid portrayal of prairie life, elegant language and poignant plot. Definitely a novel that leaves me wanting to read more of this author!...more info
  • Old-School Storytelling
    This is my first Ivan Doig novel, and I wasn't disappointed. The author delivers with uncluttered, straightforward diction the story of a widower and his three sons living at the turn of 1909-10 in eastern Montana. They answer an ad for a housekeeper (Rose) from Minnesota and get more than they bargained for (in many ways, as the denouement will reveal) when Rose's brother, Morrie, steps off the train with her.

    "The Whistling Season" suffers only two profanities in its 345-page narrative and is truly family fare in its poignant re-creation of the one-room schoolhouse culture of so many western yesteryears. Although the protagonist is the adult eldest son, Paul Milliron, looking back on his eventful 13th year, it is Morrie Morgan, destined to become the emergency teacher, who steals the show characterization-wise. Morrie makes the book especially appealing to readers who like to read about gifted teachers, schools, and learning -- specifically Morrie's specialties: science, Latin, and subterfuge. Though the plot is as steady and uneventful as Montana's gunmetal skies, the ending does feature a twist (for any O. Henry fans in the crowd). Also of note is Doig's care with description of the land. The landscapes he fondly paints, obviously informed by experience, are a strong competition for Morrie as they become like ghostly characters forged from the anvil of the author's -- and by extension, the narrator's -- memory.

    All in all, "The Whistling Season" is a good, solid book about good, solid people, some of whom are burdened by a secret. ...more info
  • Engaging, enjoyable, entertaining
    The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig is an engaging story of rural life in 1909 Montana. Oliver Milliron has recently lost his wife and needing a housekeeper for his three boys, is intrigued by a newspaper advertisement "Can't Cook But Doesn't Bite" for a housekeeper from Minneapolis. Soon Rose Llewelyn arrives with her brother Morris Morgan. Rose lives up to her word about cooking, but soon fills the house with her cheerful whistling as she cleans up the Milliron's lives. Morgan, in the meantime, takes on the job of schoolteacher when the latest teacher runs off with an itinerant preacher. The story is told from the perspective of 13-year-old Paul who is haunted by terrible dreams and an amazing intellect. There is no great climax or action in this book, it's just a quiet enjoyable read about a community, its one room school, and the people who are trying to make a living off of land that doesn't want to give an inch. Doig captures the politics of the schoolyard admirably. There's a slight twist at the end that ties things up almost too neatly, but Paul's ironic narrative more than capably makes up for it. ...more info
  • Good Review
    I got this as a gift for my grandmother who called me when she was finished to rant about how great this was! I guess it was a great book, the description sounded really nice!...more info
  • The long road home
    As I write this "review" all I can say, is that I've yet to receive this book which I ordered a month ago....more info
  • The Whistling Season
    I have read other books by this author and this
    particular one was for a Christmas present....more info
  • A fun and smart Western novel
    Ivan Doig has been called "the reigning master of new Western literature." And THE WHISTLING SEASON, his latest book, certainly confirms his writing stature.

    The story is told from the point of view of Paul Milliron, currently the Montana state superintendent of schools. He has been delegated to decide the fate of the state's last rural schools. As he struggles with the decisions he must make, Paul recalls his childhood and the one-room schoolhouse he attended in Marias Coulee, Montana in the fall of 1909.

    Paul's father Oliver has been recently widowed. The family, including three boys --- Paul, Damon and Tobey --- are struggling to keep their daily chores done. This includes cooking, housekeeping, attending to their father's farming duties and going to school. It's too much for all of them, so Oliver decides to advertise for a housekeeper. When a woman applies with the statement, "Can't cook but doesn't bite," she is hired anyway, sight unseen. None of the Millirons quite believe that she can't cook.

    The widow Rose Llewellyn arrives in Montana with an unexpected guest: her brother, the well-educated but quirky Morris Morgan. Both Rose and Morris are hard workers. Rose knows how to clean a house through and through, and Morgan works at any job that Oliver can find him --- including cleaning out a chicken coop.

    For the boys, school life is never without its challenges. When Paul Milliron slugs the school bully, Eddie Turley, Damon comes up with a plan to prevent a fight. He suggests a horse race. The loser is to leave the other boy alone for the rest of the year. The only catch is that the riders will sit backwards on the horse. Paul wins the race and all is well, until their father finds out. As punishment, Paul will help Morris stack the wood piles for their elderly Aunt. During their work time together, Paul and Morris begin a relationship of mentor to student.

    When the schoolteacher runs off to get married to a traveling minister, Paul's father talks Morris into taking on the job. As Morris engages the class, the reader is engaged in the minds of the students, the Milliron home and life in rural Montana in the early 1900s. Morris also tutors Paul in Latin after school, which deepens their relationship. His teaching abilities are tested when the inspector comes to visit.

    A horse crushes Tobey's foot and Rose moves into the house to help Oliver take care of him. The closeness leads to romance between Rose and Paul's father, and Paul figures out the puzzle of why Rose and Morris left the midwest to journey to Montana.

    Ivan Doig evokes the sense of the Old West as few writers can. His depiction and description of Montana gives the reader the breadth and depth of life on the land a hundred years ago. The reader travels back to the early 1900s with Paul, as he revisits his past to choose what to do with Montana's last rural schools in the 1950s.

    --- Reviewed by Jennifer McCord
    ...more info
  • The long road home
    As I write this "review" all I can say, is that I've yet to receive this book which I ordered a month ago....more info
  • Great Characters, Writing & Commentary
    What's not to like in this story? There are quirky, lovable characters, written with depth. There are sentences that are simply artful. And, there is a lasting contemplation evoked long after the last page is turned as you think about the evolution of the public school system from a one-room schoolhouse, to segregated schools, to integrated schools, to inner-city kids bussed to the suburbs, to the exodus to private schools for those "fortunate" enough to have that option. For me, it was ultimately the reminder of the impact ANY teacher with a passion for learning can have on all students, from the most reluctant to the most eager. All in all, a great book....more info
  • Even when it stands vacant, the past is never empty
    These, the poetic prose of Ivan Doig, are as crisp and thought-provoking in his latest novel "The Whistling Season" as they were in his debut memoir "This House Of Sky". Doig has once again delivered a dazzling read, and proven himself the king of Contemporary Western literature.

    As Montana Superintendent of Schools during the 1950s, Paul Milleron faces the difficult decision of closing the state's rural schools. "The Whistling Season" takes Milleron back to his extraordinary seventh grade year at Marias Coulee, a single-room school in eastern Montana. Paul, his two younger brothers, and their father Oliver, are still raw from the loss of their mother and wife. Domestic life is nearly unbearable as they practice "downkeep" instead of "upkeep", and Oliver's cooking is a significant source of depression. So when Oliver discovers an advertisement for a housekeeper titled "Can't cook, but doesn't bite", how can they not hire the woman?

    The lovely Rose Lewellen, however, hardly arrives from Minneapolis alone. She brings her brother, Morrie Morgan, a man of letters with a sketchy past. Through a twist of fate not uncommon for prairie schools (matrimony), Morrie is pressed into service as the new school master. Milleron's memory of the 1909-10 school year and the wonders it brought (Halley's comet for one) force him to question how closing these schools could possibly serve its students. An education of quality can sometimes be found in unlikely places.

    Doig has always been my favorite author. I savor his every word. Of grave markers, he says, "The patience of stones. How they await us." He has no equal in Contemporary Western literature.
    ...more info
  • Delightful & different
    This is so different than much historical fiction, but it was pure delight. These characters became so real and the setting was genuine. The author's depiction of the "politics" of a one room school in a remote rural area was funny and seemed right on target. At times I laughed out loud.

    Seeing Paul as both the state superintendent of schools and as a young student was so effective. Who would have thought that a bureaucrat's decision to close a small school would provide such a compelling concept for a novel. The effect of Haley's Comet on the school provides a perfect parallel for the effect of Sputnik many years later.

    The writing is clear, direct, and meaningful-- just like the characters. Highly recommend this for anyone....more info
  • Fantastic.
    Growing up in Nebraska, small country schoolhouses were still around untill recently. I thought the storytelling writing style of Ivan Doig was fantastic, and he paints a vivid picture of the time through the eyes of a young boy. A great read....more info
  • The Whistling Season
    This is an awesome story and the writing is absolutely amazing. I originally borrowed the book from a friend, and when I finished reading it, I actually went back to the beginning to read it through again. It was just as enjoyable the second time through. And then, just to make sure, I bought a copy of the book from Amazon. This book is definitely a "keeper". I loved it and have recommended it to several friends already, and, who knows, I may be reading it again soon! I also went back to Amazon and bought other books by the same author!
    ...more info
  • Just a really lovely little book.
    I won't go into the details of plot or character much, as others have done so admirably.

    I think I liked this novel in much the same way I like the movie "A Christmas Story" - it's nostalgic without being saccharine, without being maudlin, and without being mean-slash-smart-alecky. Its characters don't have anachronistic vocabularies or habits (a common fault in period fiction, I find) and their lives are ordinary in a believable, interesting way.

    I loved the Paul character the most, though Morrie was good too (anyone else keep picturing Dr Bombay from "Bewitched"?). I loved the setting -- more fiction should be written about the folks on the prairie. My family hails from prairie country and the little I have experienced while visiting grandparents always thrills me with its unique romance.

    Interesting note (well, interesting to me, anyway): During the spelling bee sequence, Morrie is trying to stump Paul, who is normally not permitted to participate in classroom bees due to his dominance. One of the words that Morrie wisely chooses to test Paul is "pharaoh" -- a tough word almost always misspelled -- but the author has made the ironic error of spelling it "pharoah" in the book. If the word were truly spelled that way, p-h-a-r-o-a-h, then it *wouldn't* be a good spelling bee word, as that's the way everyone misspells it. Anyway.

    Highly recommended to lovers of quiet, medium-weight American fiction....more info
  • A loving lament for a lost era--rough, wild, gentle, wise
    "Whistling Season" by Ivan Doig is a deeply affecting coming-of-age novel set in the dry Montana prairie of 1910. The story is told through the memories of Paul Milliron looking back to one important year in his childhood, when he was 13. The book begins in 1950 when Paul, now Montana State Superintendent of Public Instruction, travels to his hometown of Marias Coulee with the unpleasant task of closing its one and only one-room schoolhouse. He gazes up at the night sky watching Sputnik blink across the stars and knows that a new era has arrived. He is heartbroken because this new era will wipe out all that has come before. There will be no going back.

    Doig knows this territory well--it is his own ancestral roots. He has researched it thoroughly and published other successful fiction and nonfiction books set in this period and place. While reading this book, I felt transported back in time--the landscape, the people, the very dust that covered everything--came alive on the page. So do the characters--the singular, bizarre, and clarion-clear characters of the Old West--Doig is, indeed, a master at creating wonderfully authentic people that you really care about.

    The story is poignant. Young Paul and his two younger brothers are experiencing the first year of grief following the death of their mother. Oliver Milliron, their father, is understandably overwhelmed with the task of being father, mother, and homesteader. Through the distant Minneapolis newspaper, he sees an ad by a housekeeper. In this manner, the ever-whistling, beautiful Rose Llewellyn comes into their life. She arrives unexpectedly with her brother, Morris Morgan, an eccentric, walking encyclopedia. Events unfold that push Morris toward becoming the town's schoolmaster. Although he has never done anything like that before, teaching seems a task that he was born to. His students flourish under his idiosyncratic and outrageous style. But Rose and Morris hold a secret that Paul eventually uncovers. How he handles that situation delineates young Paul's crossover from child to adult.

    The novel is in every way, a loving lament about the passing of uniquely American way of life--the rough, yet magical and free life of Western Montana dry-land farming homesteaders....more info
  • what a rare thing a good story is
    With the caliber of writing as dismal as it seems to be in fiction lately, I did not expect much from this book, but I was very pleasently surprised.Coming from Nebraska, where the stories of one room schoolhouses are the stuff of folktales, this was, and will remain,a story close to my heart. If we forget the past, we lose the future, and with stories like this we never will. I reccomend this heartily...more info
  • Fantastic.
    Growing up in Nebraska, small country schoolhouses were still around untill recently. I thought the storytelling writing style of Ivan Doig was fantastic, and he paints a vivid picture of the time through the eyes of a young boy. A great read....more info
  • Great Coming of Age Story
    This is one of the best coming of age stories I've read in years. Ivan Doig evokes a wonderfully strong image of the family as it deals with everyday life and all of the changes that occur....more info
  • Amazing!
    What an excellent book -- one of the best books I have read. Ivan Doig has a style of writing that is so vivid, so descriptive, you can feel, taste, and smell exactly what he's describing. For example, he's speaks of a clear October day, "but the wind was practicing for winter." You could feel the chill. The characters were rich and unpredictable - each one described with such care that you feel you know them and care deeply about what happens to them. No one character in the novel was inconsequential; each had a specific purpose necessary to embellish the plot. Phrases like, "even when it stands vacant the past is never empty," stayed with me long after I turned the last page. The story was believable and poignant. It made me laugh and it made me cry. I'm usually one of those readers that skims sections when I think they are getting to "wordy" or unnecessary. With this book, I read every word, afraid I might miss another wonderfully described trait or action. I think one of my favorite quotes was, "Much of the work of my life has been to sort instruction from illusion, and, in the endless picture gallery behind the eye, I have learned to rely on a certain radiance of a detail to bring back the exactitude of a moment." I can't wait to track down the other books by this wonderful Seattle author and can only hope that I enjoy them all as much as I enjoyed this one....more info
  • Nostalgic Glimpses of Old Montana
    Have you ever read a book which makes you long for a time when things were simpler? The whistling season is one such book. When I read this novel I truly got the feeling that I was living at the beginning of the 20th century.

    That said, this storytelling method the author used (first person with flashbacks) is perhaps my least favorite method to read. The omniscient view irked this reader as I really felt the brief glimpses of the present were uninteresting and unnecessary to the story flow. If the author truly felt the need to include such musings, why not write an epilogue?

    Also, I thought the story suffered from a bit of heavy handedness in the form of Morrie and Rose characters. From the moment Rose arrived with her dubious brother Morrie in tow I was suspicious. These two characters soon dominated the story much to my chagrin. If the author truly felt the need to write about Morrie and Rose, why not make them the protagonist? In truth, Rose wasn't really that interesting but Morrie was clearly the star of the show. I alternated between loving the character and being annoyed he was taking so much of the spotlight.

    Overall, this was a fine solid read, but I didn`t care for the ending which seemed rushed and forced. 4 stars.
    ...more info
  • Morrie makes the book.
    If it were not for the character of Morrie, this book would be rather bland and predictable. I agree with the one reviewer who said that it felt episodic, but there was always Morrie hanging out to make things more interesting. throughout the book i kept wishing I had someone like morrie in my life, or maybe someday I can turn out to be a Morrie figure in the lives of young students....more info
  • Highly recommend this book
    What a wonderful book. Doig knows his subject and characters so well that one feels as if it has to be an autobiography, which it isn't.
    The writing itself is also excellent. I highly recommend this book, set in the days of the Montana one room schoolhouse. This intelligent novel,the endearing Milliron family of Motherless boys,and the indefatigable school teacher, Morrie, all come together to make this a book you hate to see come to an end. ...more info
  • Unremarkable if fairly entertaining
    Paul Milliron is a seemingly insignificant child. Living with his father and 2 younger brothers on the plains of Montana in 1909, the motherless family knows hardship and good times in equal measure.

    When Paul's father takes it upon himself to hire a housekeep from Minneapolis, Paul and his younger brothers are in for the treat of their life when Rose Llewellyn and her brother Morrie Morgan show up on their front steps.

    Gradually the relationship between Mr. Milliron and Rose grows to be something more and the boys begin to see her and Morrie as irreplaceable parts of their lives. Morrie and Rose are harboring a secret however, one that could either break, or make the family.

    I had mixed reactions to "The Whistling Season." Overall I liked it. The writing is superb and descriptive and the characters are people I can relate to and want to know more about. On the flip side, there really was no solid plotline. Yes, there was a growing relationship between the characters and minor happenings that will happen in 1909 Montana, but besides that it was like an ongoing episode of "The Waltons."

    That's really all I have to say about it. It was good, I liked it. Would I read a sequel? ...meh. Maybe, if I couldn't find anything more interesting to pick up.

    I give "The Whistling Season" 4 stars for the quality of writing and the characters, 3 for the overall plotline. Overall it was unremarkable through a haze of slightly peaked interest.
    ...more info
  • Wonderful memories
    I attended a rural one-room school in southeastern Montana in the 1940's and this book indeed brought memories flooding back. It was well written, the descriptive capability of the book was excellent and the plot wasn't totally predictable. I would recommend this book to anyone that has had the one-room school experience and also to anyone wanting to find out what the one-room experience was about. Excellent book!...more info
  • The Whistling Season
    I have read other books by this author and this
    particular one was for a Christmas present....more info