An Advance Review of Ivan Doig’s Sweet Thunder

This review is also posted on

I received this copy of Sweet Thunder as part of a First-Reads Giveaway.

Ivan Doig knows Montana. While this was my first adventure with the Western wordsmith, his reverence for the state that is fondly referred to as “The Last Best Place” comes through with every word. The novel captures the sense of rugged romanticism that has always characterized Montana. Living is tough out there and you’ve got to be strong to take it. But if you can survive, it’s all worthwhile.

The novel is set in Butte, one of the ugliest cities that I have ever stepped foot in (or, more often, driven straight through). So it is a testament to the power of Sweet Thunder that I came away from the story thinking of Butte in a kinder light. The Butte Public Library plays a prominent role in the story and I find myself wanting to visit Butte again just to see it.

The story itself is interesting and quick. The characters are just that. Characters. Slightly stock feeling and I kept waiting for someone to start bouncing around on their toes, fists up saying, “Why I oughta.” Luckily they stopped just shy of that. The progression of events is somewhat predictable but entertaining all the same. The ending is a little too clean for my liking but you know, sometimes that’s okay.


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