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10 years after "The Whistling Season," Morrie Morgan left the prairies of Western Montana in a hurry so his wife Rose could marry, he returns to the Treasure State in 1919, this time to Butte, the copper mining capital of the world. Somewhere along the way, his trunk has been lost, and all he has to his name is his valise. It's not full of money, so he needs a cheap place to stay until he can find a job. Lucky for him, he finds a boarding house run by Grace Faraday, a young widow who'd lost her husband to a mining accident. The other two occupants are Griff and Hoop, two elderly retired miners who look alike. Now all he needs is a job. His first attempt is as a "cryer" as a funeral home. He's a failure at wailing at Irish wakes, though he has a good singing voice. He's not about to become a miner. He finds a job at the city library, where he gets along, some of the time, with Sandy, a great reader, who can't budget worth anything. Morrie finds a familiar character in Rabrab, who had been a student in his class on the prairies. He has to clue her in not to refer to those days. She's now a teacher herself, and a good one. Butte is torn apart between the miners and the anti-miners, and even the miners are divided by nation of origin. A bit of a rolicking story, when it's not being tragic. The title refers to the union trying to devise a union song that will compete with the song the newspaper put out by the Anaconda Mines uses to oppose the union. The source of the Work Song is a bit surprising, but interesting.
"Work Song" is a well-told story that illustrates the author's strong sense of place and time. The setting is Butte, Montana, in the early 20th century. Butte was a copper mining boomtown, where the miners' work was brutal and desecration of the environment was assured. The protagonist is a smooth-talking, whip-smart drifter who encounters a cast of interesting characters during his time in Butte.
An important element in the story is the local public library. Of course, all libraries are interesting. An extraordinary collection and an idiosyncratic director, however, made this library really special.
Mr. Doig is recognized as a popular and important writer of the post-pioneer West. I don't find his writing so fluid or his plotting so original, but he is a good storyteller and his characters are generally interesting.
Follow up to The Whistling Season, good for readers who like eccentric casts of characters and character-based Westerns. Morris Morgan arrives in Butte, Montana, the copper mining capital of the world, and after landing a job at the public library, discovers that "Peculiar characters are drawn to a library like bees to a flower garden."
Kind of slow-moving and not much plot or rising action....I like other books by Doig MUCH better.
A scholarly nerd goes to a mining town, works in a library and helps create a minor's strike sound. Pages and pages of boring dialogue make this so much less interesting than the book, 'Whistling Season'.
Very enjoyable: it makes me eager to read the sequel, Sweet Thunder. Having been to Butte made me appreciate it even more.
Morrie Morgan, the colorful schoolteacher from Doig's 'The Whistling Season' is back in Montana after an absence of ten years. He arrives in Butte in 1919 to see what he can gain from ?The Richest Hill on Earth.' His bookkeeping skills first find use in the mortuary business; then at the public library where he finds a repository of fine volumes and an irascible director. Meanwhile, he finds lodging with widow Grace Faraday along with retired miners Hoop and Griff and meets up with former student from Marais Coulee, ?Rabrab' Rellis, now a Butte teacher. There's more. The book's rounded out with all kinds of characters! And, how Doig plays us along to the gripping climax is rich storytelling at its best.
What Doig does so well he does again in this book that's both a great story and one firmly placed in Butte's copper mining story of immigrant miners and bosses, unions, the Wobblies, strikes and the toll it took on lives in ways seen and unseen. There's even a little about baseball as the 1919 World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Redlegs runs in the background, linking Morrie to his Chicago past. You get a dose of history, but a rollicking story when one is narrated by Morrie Morgan! These last two books by Doig now rank right up there to me with his 'Dancing at the Rascal Fair' and 'English Creek,' high praise.