Ivan Doig has been hailed by the New York Times as “dean of Western American letters.” In Ride with Me, Mariah Montana, widower Jick McCaskill, his daughter Mariah, and Mariah’s ex-husband Riley take a road trip back and forth across Montana. As Jick recounts his memories of the area, Riley and Mariah fall in and out of love—and Jick unexpectedly discovers a new partner.
"[Doig] displays a masterful skill in depicting the American West which few writers match." (Publishers Weekly)
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Laugh, cry, think...you'll do it all!
- Joe Wittwer
Not Doig's Best Work
This is the third and final book of Doig's Montana Trilogy. His first, Dancing at the Rascal Fair, easily earned a five star rating. His second, English Creek, was not quite as strong, but was still very interesting. My father was not only born in Montana, but had a career in forestry as a smokejumper so I enjoyed much of the story as we are introduced to Jick McCaskill and his struggles as he comes with age. There are several scenes which are laugh out loud funny--particularly during haying. In both books, the characters were interesting. Doig is a master of setting, and it is easy to visualize the Two Medicine Country. This final book, however, feels forced--as if Doig was simply trying to fulfill a publisher's commitment to complete a trilogy.
Probably the most disappointing part of the book to me were the character changes in this much older Jick McCaskill. Doig portrays him as an irascible senior who constantly uses the phrase "God Damn" as an adjective. It quickly became tiresome. Jick could easily have been a person who has aged more gracefully, softened by years of hard work and family love. Instead, he seems to perpetually have a burr under his saddle. As the narrator of the story, his voice is unceasingly complaining. In addition, the entire situation of his daughter and her ex-husband traveling with him as the chauffeur through out Montana in a "bago" seemed more contrived than believable.
I was glad that the same narrator was used in both English Creek and Ride With Me, as it provided a nice continuity with Jick.
If you are interested in learning about Montana, you may still be interested in this book. Although the situations seemed contrived, Doig is still a master writer when it comes to describing this state. He has the ability to paint with his words and the scenery becomes almost tangible as it is described.