A season of love — and secrets

  • The Whistling Season, by Ivan Doig

    352 pages, hardcover, $25. Harcourt, 2006
 

When an unexpected teaching vacancy arises in the town’s one-room schoolhouse, Morrie steps in. His pedagogy is unorthodox and his résumé dubious, but he ignites the minds of his pupils. Morrie’s finest teaching moment comes when he organizes the children to honor the arrival of Halley’s Comet with a harmonica concert for their astonished parents. Like Rose, Morrie also has a secret, which Doig draws out cleverly until the book’s dramatic and surprising conclusion.

A Doig novel is unapologetically nostalgic. The Whistling Season is a throwback to a slower-paced life in which love wins out, wounds heal and community trumps the individual. Another familiar theme arises: To newcomers Morrie and Rose, the West is a blank canvas where they can reinvent themselves, bury their secrets, and impress the impressionable locals. For Doig, the author of 10 previous books, this idea works every time.