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Bucking the Sun

Bucking the Sun

A Novel

Read by: Will Patton
  • reading group guide
Not since Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath has there been a family saga as powerful as Bucking the Sun or a family as compellingly strife-torn as the one at its center. Driven by drought from their Montana farm to "relief work" building the Fort Peck Dam, the Duff family spans the extremes of the times, from the eldest son Owen, who has made his way through college to an engineer's job on the dam to young Bruce, his antithesis, a risk-taker who works as a diver setting pilings into the treacherous river bottom. In between are Neil, the quiet one, and the brothers' iron-willed wives. When a couple of wild cards are introduced, in the form of a Red Uncle from Scotland and the prostitute he takes up with, the plot gets as thick and turbulent as the muddy Missouri.
Bucking the Sun is a startling story of mixed fortunes that races from moment to moment, an epic rendering of time and place that reminds us why Ivan Doig is our foremost living storyteller of the American West.
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  • Simon & Schuster Audio | 
  • ISBN 9780743540537 | 
  • January 1999
List Price $17.98
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Guide for Bucking the Sun by Ivan Doig
About the book It is 1938. A Ford truck is pulled from the Missouri River at Fort Peck Dam. Two unnamed Duffs are claimed by the river, and we follow the thread of their fate, eager to learn who, and why, as the clan pushes on against the circumstances. Thus begins Bucking the Sun, a wonderfully suspenseful novel about the Depression era when FDR was president and the New Deal prevailed.
Bucking the Sun is a fascinating chronicle of the explosion of construction towns, the building of the mammoth Fort Peck Dam and the displaced Duff family, whose farm is lost and whose legacy is to survive a changing America, amid their tangled love affairs and clashing politics.
Discussion points
  1. While based on the actual building of the Fort Peck Dam, Bucking the Sun is a work of fiction. At what point does the novel depart from fact to imagination? What liberties does Doig take that an author of non-fiction could not?
  2. Describe the structure of Bucking the Sun. Discuss Doig's literary voice, as well as his use of flashback. What is the author's purpose in these italic "back stories"?
  3. How do the shantytown settings and the emerging Fort Peck Dam summon the themes in Bucking the Sun?
  4. Doig has populated his novel equally with female and male characters -- Meg and Hugh, Bruce and Kate, Rosellen and Neil, Owen and Charlene, Prox
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About the Author

Ivan Doig

Ivan Doig grew up in a family of Montana ranch hands during the 1940s and '50s. The author of ten books, including the acclaimed novels that make up the Montana Trilogy—English Creek, Dancing at the Rascal Fair, and Ride with Me, Mariah Montana—he lives with his wife in Seattle. Visit the author's website at IvanDoig.com.

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