This story takes place in Montana, told from the perspective and memories of the oldest Milliron boy, Paul. Their mother having died the year before, Oliver Milliron see an ad for a housekeeper and decides that is what they need. Rose Llewellyn arrives with her brother Morris Morgan in tow. There is a Big Ditch project- a gargantuan irrigation project that is drawing homesteaders from the east. The schoolmarm runs off and gets married, and Morris Morgan becomes the new teacher.
The only way I can think to describe this is as a fictional memoir. We learn of the Milliron household and the community of Marias Coulee. Morris’ rather offbeat way of teaching, Rose’s philosophy of housekeeping and negotiating skills. There is much going on in Marias Coulee. The narrative is straightforward, except it goes from the ‘now’ of Paul’s life, to the memories of his childhood and that year when Rose and Morrie showed up and changed their lives forever.
Ivan Doig does a good job taking us back in time to 1909, Paul narrative is clear and concise, while relating long stretches of conversation his prose is captivating. The story doesn’t drag, there is a surprise at the end, not really a twist and the characters stay true and all the questions are answered.