New York: Atheneum, 1992. First edition. Hardcover. Signed by the author on the front endpaper. Ivan Doig was surprised by his inheritance from his Uncle Wally in 1986. The packet of letters written by his beloved mother, Berneta, to her youngest brother in the last year of her short life was now his, 41 years after her death. They were the link to his past that he barely remembered--his fifth year of life lived in the Arizona desert and on a sheep ranch in Montana. Berneta died in the wee hours of Ivan's 6th birthday of an overworked heart due to her frequent and severe asthma attacks. No one in the family ever "got over" her death. Ivan's memories were sketchy but he wrote that the family was "pierced by my mother's death in the mountain cabin." The letters gave him details of their everyday life so he could piece together their last year and write this wonderful tribute to his mother. I can't imagine receiving such a touching gift. In reading his mother's words, Ivan discovered where his love for writing came from. He cleverly used this window to his past by quoting both from the letters and from the logbook of the destroyer USS Ault where Uncle Wally served in the last years of WWII. The juxtaposition of war stories and ranch stories was jarring, but it added context to Doig's early years. For those of us who read and loved This House of Sky, Doig's memoir of his later childhood, this prequel gives us a better understanding of Ivan's closeness to his mother. The winter the young Doig family spent in Arizona was so interesting. Ivan's father proved he would do anything for his young wife. Berneta writes to Wally: I always thought a desert was just nothing, but I have changed my mind. It is really beautiful here, in the desert way… When the young family's desert experiment was over and they returned to Montana, they all learned that this would be their forever home..."What can account for my mother's high spirits at being back in that drafty mousy attic of Montana, the mile-up-and-then-some Big Belt country where sour winter stayed on past the spring dance? …Earth and Heart don't have much of a membrane between them. Sometimes decided on grounds as elusive as that simple transposable h, this matter of siting ourselves. Of a place mysteriously insisting itself into us." (Pg. 80). A near fine copy in a near fine dust jacket. Item #15142
ISBN: 0689121377

Price: $50.00

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