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The Whistling Season

The Whistling Season

by Ivan Doig

Paperback(First Edition)

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Overview

Novelist Ivan Doig revisits the American west in the early twentieth century, bringing to life the eccentric individuals and idiosyncratic institutions that made it thrive.

 

“Can't cook but doesn't bite." So begins the newspaper ad offering the services of an "A-1 housekeeper, sound morals, exceptional disposition" that draws the attention of widower Oliver Milliron in the fall of 1909. That unforgettable season deposits the ever-whistling Rose Llewellyn and her font-of-knowledge brother, Morris Morgan, in Marias Coulee along with a stampede of homesteaders drawn by the promise of the Big Ditch—a gargantuan irrigation project intended to make the Montana prairie bloom. When the schoolmarm runs off with an itinerant preacher, Morris is pressed into service, setting the stage for the "several kinds of education"—none of them of the textbook variety—Morris and Rose will bring to Oliver, his three sons, and the rambunctious students in the region's one-room schoolhouse. A paean to a way of life that has long since vanished, The Whistling Season is Ivan Doig at his evocative best.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156031646
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 05/07/2007
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 35,344
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

IVAN DOIG is the author of ten previous books, including the novels Prairie Nocturne and Dancing at the Rascal Fair. A former ranch hand, newspaperman, and magazine editor, Doig holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington. He lives in Seattle.

Read an Excerpt

When i visit the back corners of my life again after so long a time, littlest things jump out first. The oilcloth, tiny blue windmills on white squares, worn to colorless smears at our four places at the kitchen table. Our father’s pungent coffee, so strong it was almost ambulatory, which he gulped down from suppertime until bedtime and then slept serenely as a sphinx. The pesky wind, the one element we could count on at Marias Coulee, whistling into some weather-cracked cranny of this house as if invited in.

That night we were at our accustomed spots around the table, Toby coloring a battle between pirate ships as fast as his hand could go while I was at my schoolbook, and Damon, who should have been at his, absorbed in a secretive game of his own devising called domino solitaire. At the head of the table, the presiding sound was the occasional turning of a newspaper page. One has to imagine our father reading with his finger, down the column of rarely helpful want ads in the Westwater Gazette that had come in our week’s gunnysack of mail and provisions, in his customary search for a colossal but underpriced team of workhorses, and that inquisitive finger now stubbing to a stop at one particular heading. To this day I can hear the signal of amusement that line of type drew out of him. Father had a short, sniffing way of laughing, as if anything funny had to prove it to his nose first.

I glanced up from my geography lesson to discover the newspaper making its way in my direction. Father’s thumb was crimped down onto the heading of the ad like the holder of a divining rod striking water. “Paul, better see this. Read it to the multitude.”

I did so, Damon and Toby halting what they were at to try to take in those five simple yet confounding words:

Can’t Cook But Doesn’t Bite.

Meal-making was not a joking matter in our household. Father, though, continued to look pleased as could be and nodded for me to keep reading aloud.

Housekeeping position sought by widow. Sound morals, exceptional disposition. No culinary skills, but A-1 in all other household tasks. Salary negotiable, but must include railroad fare to Montana locality; first year of peerless care for your home thereby guaranteed. Respond to Boxholder, Box 19, Lowry Hill Postal Station, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Normal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt; tab-stops: 24.0pt" Minneapolis was a thousand miles to the east, out of immediate reach even of the circumference of enthusiasm we could see growing in our father. But his response wasted no time in trying itself out on the three of us. “Boys? Boys, what would you think of our getting a housekeeper?”

“Would she do the milking?” asked Damon, ever the cagey one.

That slowed up Father only for a moment. Delineation of house chores and barn chores that might be construed as a logical extension of our domestic upkeep was exactly the sort of issue he liked to take on. “Astutely put, Damon. I see no reason why we can’t stipulate that churning the butter begins at the point of the cow.”

Already keyed up, Toby wanted to know, “Where she gonna sleep?”

Father was all too ready for this one. “George and Rae have their spare room going to waste now that the teacher doesn’t have to board with them.” His enthusiasm really was expanding in a hurry. Now our relatives, on the homestead next to ours, were in the market for a lodger, a lack as unbeknownst to them as our need for a housekeeper had been to us two minutes ago.

“Lowry Hill.” Father had turned back to the boldface little advertisement as if already in conversation with it. “If I’m not mistaken, that’s the cream of Minneapolis.”

I hated to point out the obvious, but that chore seemed to go with being the oldest son of Oliver Milliron.

“Father, we’re pretty much used to the house muss by now. It’s the cooking part you say you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.”

He knew—we all knew—I had him there.

size: 10.0pt; mso-bidi-font-family: 'Times New Roman'" Damon’s head swiveled, and then Toby’s, to see how he could possibly deal with this. For miles around, our household was regarded with something like a low fever of consternation by every woman worthy of her apron. As homestead life went, we were relatively prosperous and “bad off,” as it was termed, at the same time. Prosperity, such as it was, consisted of payments coming in from the sale of Father’s drayage business back in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The “bad off” proportion of our situation was the year-old grave marker in the Marias Coulee cemetery. Its inscription, chiseled into all our hearts as well as the stone, read Florence Milliron, Beloved Wife and Mother (1874–1908). As much as each of the four of us missed her at other times, mealtimes were a kind of tribal low point where we contemplated whatever Father had managed to fight onto the table this time. “’Tovers, everyone’s old favorite!” he was apt to announce desperately as he set before us leftover hash on its way to becoming leftover stew.

Now he resorted to a lengthy slurp of his infamous coffee and came up with a response to me, if not exactly a reply:

“These want ads, you know, Paul—there’s always some give to them. It only takes a little bargaining. If I were a wagering man, I’d lay money Mrs. Minneapolis there isn’t as shy around a cookstove as she makes herself out to be.”

“But—” My index finger pinned down the five tablet-bold words of the heading.

“The woman was in a marriage,” Father patiently overrode the evidence of the newsprint, “so she had to have functioned in a kitchen.”

With thirteen-year-old sagacity, I pointed out: “Unless her husband starved out.”

“Hooey. Every woman can cook. Paul, get out your good pen and paper.”



~

ZE: 9pt; FONT-FAMILY: Times; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt; mso-bidi-font-family: 'Times New Roman'"This jilted old house and all that it holds, even empty. If I have learned anything in a lifetime spent overseeing schools, it is that childhood is the one story that stands by itself in every soul. As surely as a compass needle knows north, that is what draws me to these remindful rooms as if the answer I need by the end of this day is written in the dust that carpets them.

The wrinkled calendar on the parlor wall stops me in my tracks. It of course has not changed since my last time here. Nineteen fifty-two. Five years, so quickly passed, since the Marias Coulee school board begged the vacant old place from me for a month while they repaired the roof of their teacherage and I had to come out from the department in Helena to go over matters with them. What I am startled to see is that the leaf showing on the calendar—October—somehow stays right across all the years: that 1909 evening of Paul, get out your good pen and paper, the lonely teacher’s tacking up of something to relieve these bare walls so long after that, and my visit now under such a changed sky of history.

The slyness of calendars should not surprise me, I suppose. Passing the newly painted one-room school, our school, this morning as I drove out in my state government car, all at once I was again at that juncture of time when Damon and Toby and I, each in our turn, first began to be aware that we were not quite of our own making and yet did not seem to be simply rewarmed ’tovers of our elders, either. How could I, who back there at barely thirteen realized that I must struggle awake every morning of my life before anyone else in the house to wrest myself from the grip of my tenacious dreams, be the offspring of a man who slept solidly as a railroad tie? And Damon, fists-up Damon, how could he derive from our peaceable mother? Ready or not, we were being introduced to ourselves, sometimes in a fashion as hard to follow as our father’s reading finger. Almost any day in the way stations of childhood we passed back and forth between, prairie homestead and country school, was apt to turn into a fresh puzzle piece of life. Something I find true even yet.

It is Toby, though, large-eyed prairie child that he was, whom I sensed most as I slowed there at the small old school with its common room and the bank of windows away from its weather side. Damon or I perhaps can be imagined taking our knocks from fate and putting ourselves back into approximately what we seemed shaped to be, if we had started off on some other ground of life than that of Marias Coulee. But Toby was breath and bone of this place, and later today when I must go into Great Falls to give the county superintendents, rural teachers, and school boards of Montana’s fifty-six counties my edict, I know it will be their Tobys, their schoolchildren produced of this soil and the mad valors of homesteaders such as Oliver Milliron, that they will plead for.
Copyright © 2006 by Ivan Doig

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system,
without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,
6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.


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The Whistling Season 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 92 reviews.
bekker More than 1 year ago
I read this on my Nook. Really enjoyed this book. Will definitely look for something else by this author. My only problem was with the editing. There were so very many typos, I wondered what was happening. I found it very distracting from the story. I don't think this should be the case, especially when the Nook price is so high anyway.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a fantastic book I read in two sittings. I had started it earlier in the year, and gotten bored with it and put it down. I deeply regret doing so, as it was pure poetry to read and actually very gripping in the end. The Whistling Season starts with a family of four men, one father, three sons, applying for a housekeeper. What they get is sweet and caring Rose, and her brother, enccentric and brilliant Morrie. As the housekeeper's world of satin and housework collides with the boy's world of rural Montana, sparks in the form of secrets start to fly. I fell in love, broke my heart, laughed, cried, and came away from this book smiling with the notion that everything can change for the best. What I would give for a sequel.
Lynne-Dee-Wendling More than 1 year ago
Wonderful writer. I'm now reading his Sky book. I really looked forward every night to reading what comes next. Very original, wonderful plot, colorful characters, won't give story away. Deserves the five stars.
Skater1 More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly engrossing and completely captivating just the way the best kind of story should be. I felt bereft when it was over. This was my first read by Ivan Doig and I read it in paperback. From the reviews here, I understand that the Nook version has many type-os. This was not the case in paperback. It was immaculate and I am here for MORE, type-os or no! My hat is off to you Ivan.
Maertel More than 1 year ago
This should be required reading for all teachers!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As fan of historical fiction, I found the book very well-written and entertaining. The characters are well-developed and very believable within a family structure. The simpler days of farming and one-room schoolhouses brought back memories of the stories my mother would tell. The life was simple but Paul, the main character was facing the coming of age where moving beyond his family is not so far off. I also liked the author's choice of having Paul recall his childhood by telling the story with flashbacks. His use of the main character as the State School Superintendent lends itself well to the details of learning in a one-room schoolhouse and the teaching tools used at that time. It's was a far cry from all the technology and media incorporated into classroom today. A good read for relaxing and traveling back in time.
nivramkoorb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought this story was a little too simple. The relationships were too one dimensional and the plot was very contrived. I did not get the same feel as the other reviewers. I doubt if I would seek out another book by Doig
av71 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bittersweet book-- mostly enjoyed it except for some of the convoluted sentences which required repeated rereading for understanding. Also, Paul's confrontation with Morrie was troubling and sad to me but both handled it as well as possible. Incidentally, this cover is not the one that appears on the book I read though the ISBN matches.
silva_44 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rarely do I award any book five stars, but this inauspicious little volume rocked me to the very core. Doig perfectly captured the rawness of Montana, without letting that same unyielding rawness transfer to the characters (save one or two), each of which was so beautifully written that I found myself savoring every page. His grasp on the workings of a little country school at the turn of the century proved to be quite accurate, from the stories that I've heard my grandfather tell of his days in a one-room schoolhouse. As a teacher, he inspired me to greater heights and the wish that I could be a Morris Morgan. He managed to perfectly blend the past and the present into a novel that is sure to stay in my imagination for years to come. Bravo!
lizhawk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A tad bit predictable but lovely, engrossing story of a family on the Montana plains. Mom dies so Dad answers a newspaper ad for a housekeeper and gets Rose and Morrie, the likes of whom this small town has never seen.
Bellettres on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fine book, with captivating characters. I especially loved Paul, the academic prodigy, and Morrie, his mentor. (The one-room schoolhouse that is the focal point of the story reminded me not so much of "Little House on the Prairie" as of "The Waltons" and the character of John-Boy.) But Ivan Doig's prose is much more sophisticated than that, although it conveys perfectly the innocence of the early 20th century in this country. Having studied Latin for four years in high school, I also enjoyed its prominence in this novel. A first-rate reading experience that I'm grateful not to have missed!
laurie_library on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good storyline, and the author makes you believe that your'e actually in the small one-room school house. Sort of like little house on the prarie for boys. The ending was a bit far fetched forme though. I will read more of his stuff.
elsyd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just re-read this book and loved it even more the second time. What a great story of children growing up, wrestling with their conscientiouss and of education in a country school in 1910. Great characters.
Copperskye on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"When I visit the back corners of my life again after so long a time, littlest things jump out first." And so begins this utterly delightful, gently humorous, very old-fashioned kind of book. Written in first person, our narrator, Paul, takes us back to the Fall of 1909 when he was twelve and living with his recently widowed father and two younger brothers in Marias Coulee, Montana. Their life, and the central action of the story, is centered on the one-room schoolhouse. This is my first book by Doig and it certainly won't be my last. His writing is poetic as he captures the time and sense of place beautifully. The characters are well drawn, they feel almost like people you know and with whom you'd want to sit a spell. I'm looking forward to revisiting Morrie in Work Song. Recommended especially for fans of Kent Haruf, Leif Enger, and, although I haven't read her, I suspect, Laura Ingles Wilder. I would also recommend for patient middle to high school readers who will easily relate to the story.
BobNolin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful book. Just perfect in every way. Great story, characters that breathe on the page, and a plot that's surprisingly clever. Morrie Morgan steals the show. Someone we all wish we had for a teacher, or a reminder of that special teacher we once had. Starting an ARC of Work Song, the sort of sequel, this time starring Morrie. Yea!
susanbevans on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ivan Doig's The Whistling Season is a well-written, charming look into America's past. The lives of the Montana homesteaders and their families come to vivid life within the pages, allowing this reader to lose herself in the beauty of Doig's descriptions. The language Doig uses is artistic, exquisitely illustrating a way of life lost to us many years ago.There are so many great things about The Whistling Season that I could quite literally write pages about it! The characters in are phenomenally well-formed. From Rose and her brother Morrie, to Oliver and his boys, to the schoolyard bullies they encounter, Doig has created realistic and complex characters, leaving the reader wanting more. The setting constructed in The Whistling Season is wonderfully atmospheric and the detail the novel contains is simply breathtaking.Ivan Doig's The Whistling Season is everything a good story should be - interesting and entertaining, with realistic characters and a strong sense of setting. What more can a reader ask for?
-Cee- on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a truly great book! Doig writes with such explicit emotion and detail - across age ranges and temperments. His writing sweeps me away. The varied characters in this 1909 Montana setting are so timeless and believable. They remind me of real people I know today. This is a touching family story within a small community told by Paul, a 13 year old boy. Paul's father is a widower with three boys. There is humor, tragedy, love, fear, and amazement in their everyday hardscrabble existence as a feminine influence breezes in restoring order and connection. An interesting juxtaposition of perspectives of Paul at 13 and Paul in his later years is woven lightly throughout. Paul struggles and comes to terms with perspectives on adult relationships, temptations to compromise values in an effort to succeed in life, forgiveness, the value of a small town education and learning to live with others. I wanted to see the comet. I wanted to race backwards on horseback. I wanted to talk and listen to Morrie. I wanted to have an early morning cocoa with Rose. In a way, I did all that. Doig is that good.
DeltaQueen50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This gentle coming of age tale about a family homesteading on the Montana prairie is beautifully written and just enfolds around you and carries you to another place. Seen through the eyes of a 13 year old boy, we are treated to a simple story that touches the emotions. With great descriptions, the author gives a quiet, natural earthiness to the story yet adds a playful humor to aid the flow of the narrative. The story revolves around the importance of the one room school house to rural communities, and, in fact much of the story takes place in the classroom. How one teacher can enter the lives of their students and change them forever, how families pull together in both good times and bad, and how being a good neighbour meant so much more in those isolated places than it does today. Not an earth shaking drive towards a climax, just a gentle tale of reminiscence.Ivan Doig remains one of my favorite authors and The Whistling Season shines through in it¿s simplicity
KAzevedo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set on the plains of Montana in the early 1900s, this is the lovely story of a farm family, a widower and his three young sons. A woman's touch arrives in the form of a young and excellent housekeeper, hired via an advertisement that is headed "Can't Cook But Doesn't Bite". With her comes her brother, Morrie, an educated dandy who becomes the teacher of grades one through eight in the one-room schoolhouse. There is a touch of mystery about them, but their presence enlivens the following year for all who live nearby. Through the eyes of Paul, the oldest son and a scholar, we experience life on a dry farm and in a small rural school. This gentle story is full of humor and warmth, with richly described characters and a strong sense of place. It evokes a longing for a less cynical time. Doig's simple writing style creates a place and characters that I came to care for.
ElizabethChapman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Whistling Season is a wonderfully enjoyable novel, a story that keeps you turning the pages without resorting to cliff-hanging adventure or drama. It compels simply by the strength of its characters and ability to conjure the life of Montana dry farmers in the early 20th century.The story is told through the eyes of Paul, a thirteen-year-old boy living with his two brothers and widowed father, narrated by Paul¿s adult self. When the family answers an ad for a housekeeper, Rose shows up with her brother, Morrie. Before long Rose has the house in good running order and Morrie becomes the teacher in the one-room schoolhouse. Paul is exceptionally intelligent, and the combination of his boyish innocence and nearly adult perceptiveness make him an unusual and effective narrator. The wistfulness of the man is already lurking the boy, and the joy of existence still lingers in the adult. I highly recommend The Whistling Season to anyone who enjoys beautiful but understated writing and great story-telling.
countrylife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Even when it stands vacant the past is never empty. In The Whistling Season, Paul Milliron returns to his childhood home in the capacity of Montana's Superintendent of Schools, on a hateful errand to shut down the state's one-room schools. Back at his vacant childhood home, the never-empty past of Paul's youth comes to us through the author's pen. If you are of an age to remember the TV series, The Waltons, you'll understand what I mean when I say that this story played in my head like an episode of The Waltons. With just the merest hint of what is going on in his life in the story's 'now' (late 1950s), framing the story of what happened 'then', when he was about 13 (1910). It was spare living but a full life, lived with his father and brothers, and riding their horses to the one-room schoolhouse, same as the rest of the 'neighbors'. Arrow heads, buffalo bones, Halley's comet, irrigation projects, dryland farming, cooking, language and learning Latin, and dreaming are the stuff of Paul's youth.Montana was real to me in this book. I may not have been in the saddle (thank you, says the horse), but I felt the dust and the frost. These people were real to me, too, especially the brothers. Their various personalities and temperaments were true to each throughout. Setting, characters and story ¿ everything ¿ was perfect. Close the book for the last time, close your eyes, and you'll still hear the whistling ¿ the wind, the woman and the swans. It is a harmony in the ears of my heart, the melody of a lost way of life, the song of one-room schoolhouses, of the young folks educated there, and the sturdy pioneers from which they descended.I loved this book! (5 stars)
porch_reader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books of the year. Set in rural Montana in 1909-1910, [The Whistling Season] is told through the eyes of Paul Milliron, a seventh grader in a one-room schoolhouse in Marias Coulee. When Paul's recently widowed father, Oliver, see an ad for a housekeeper who "can't cook but doesn't bite," he invites Rose into their home and their lives. Accompanying her is her brother, Morrie, who takes over as the teacher of the one-room schoolhouse. Both Rose and Morrie are exactly what Paul and his two brothers need in their lives. and they soon become invaluable in helping them deal with the challenges that face the boys. This is the type of story that I generally like. I enjoy getting a sense of another place and time through fiction. But this story shines because Paul provides an amazingly insightful window on the world. Doig does an excellent job of capturing the voice of this precocious 13-year-old. While the events that unfold are at times suspenseful, this is not a plot driven story. Rather, everytime I opened the book, I felt as though I was getting to spend some time in this place and time that are so different from my own, with people who I loved. I hated to see the book end. I spent some time trying to come up with other characters in literature who remind me of Paul, and I can't come up with a comparison. But I did find myself thinking that Oliver reminded me a bit of Atticus Finch. And that is high praise indeed.This will be on my list of best books of the year. I can't wait to read more by Doig.
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
October, 1909. The all-male Milliron household is getting by a year after losing their wife and mother. A chance newspaper advertisement brings excitement into their lives in the form of a housekeeper from Minneapolis ¿ a housekeeper who ¿can't cook but doesn't bite.¿ Typically for a small community, the Milliron's new domestic arrangements spill over into the three brothers' school life. Decades later, the oldest Milliron brother, Paul, recalls the events of this pivotal year in the lives of his family and of their rural Montana school. It's clear that the newcomers will be catalysts for change, but it's not clear whether the changes will be for better or worse.The Whistling Season will provoke nostalgia in many readers ¿ for family and community, for the carefree days of childhood, for simpler times that exist only in memory. However, this is much more than a sentimental, ¿feel good¿ book. Doig is a master story teller ¿ dramatic without being melodramatic, and very witty. No detail is unimportant, yet the details don't weigh the story down. If readers haven't already identified with Paul, they'll be hooked by his description of his part of a shared bedroom: My books already threatened to take over my part of the room and keep on going. Mother's old ones, subscription sets Father had not been able to resist, coverless winnowings from the schoolhouse shelf¿whatever cargoes of words I could lay my hands on I gave safe harbor. I think book lovers everywhere will recognize that room! Highly recommended.
thornton37814 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Paul Milliron, Superintendent of Montana's Department of Public Instruction, has the unpleasant task of announcing the closure of the state's one room schoolhouses. He was a product of the one in Marias Coulee himself. Much of the book is a recollection of his 7th grade year. His mother had died. His dad sees an advertisement for a woman living in Minneapolis who wishes to move west and become a housekeeper. They really believe that the part of the ad about her not knowing how to cook is a joke, but soon find out its truth. Accompanying her is Morrie who is practically a walking encyclopedia. Morrie had a great influence on Paul. When I first began reading this book, I was a bit distracted by life, and the book got off to a slow start even though I really could not fault anything. However, the more I read, the more I enjoyed the book. I'm really not quite sure how I feel about the ending of the historic portion of the book. It's probably realistic, especially for that period in Montana's history, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I think the one thing that bothered me most about the pending closure of the one-room schools in favor of the consolidated schools was the statement made in the book that no child would have to ride on a bus more than 1.5 hours each way. In today's schools, I'm not sure this could be justified because of the high cost of gasoline. It also makes for a very long day for the children. That's 3 hours in addition to a normal 7 hour school day. I also believe that the students in many of those one room schoolhouses learned far more in the first eight grades than today's students. Some would say that it's just a different type of learning, but having seen many college students unprepared for college, I believe that some of those students were better prepared for today's colleges than are many current students. It's definitely a thought-provoking literary work.
chinquapin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Widower Oliver Milliron hires Rose Llewellyn to come and housekeep for him and his three boys on his Montana homestead after reading her advertisement claiming she "can't cook but doesn't bite." And thus begins a season of change in the Milliron world. The story is told from the point of view of the oldest son, 12 year old Paul Milliron, and his youthful outlook sets a perfect tone. With Rose comes her highly educated brother, Morrie, who in many ways seems out of place in this world of prairie dry farmers, but after the schoolteacher runs off with an itinerant preacher, he becomes the new schoolmaster of the one-room schoolhouse. He gets the whole community excited about the arrival of Halley's comet and begins to teach Latin to Paul. Much of the story revolves around the schoolhouse, and there is even a case made for the efficiency and importance of these schools in the face of the school consolidation movement. There is also a sense of the world changing. This book is set around 1910 when technology was just beginning to change the rural landscape for all time, and Doig covers this period and its energy masterfully. All in all, this was a wonderful story that I thoroughly enjoyed...so much so that I will probably seek out another Ivan Doig book.