A Whistling Season

When my book club chose this book last August, for me to lead in April, I thought, “Great, here comes Willa Cather’s My Antonia Part 2.” (I loathed My Antonia; I’d rather watch paint dry than read that book, although the last time I picked it up I was fourteen.)

But, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

This is a fantastic book.

This is a fabulous book.

This is the best book I’ve read about education for as far back as I can remember, and it’s certainly in my list of top books read for the year so far.

To be fair, it isn’t solely about education. Sure, there’s the school-house with its paint peeling from the sun of Montana. Sure, there’s a teacher in the form of Morrie, who accompanied his sister, Rose, to Marias Coulee in 1910. She’d placed an ad: Can’t Cook, But Doesn’t Bite in the paper for a housekeeping position, but unlike A Reliable Wife, turned out to be the perfect answer for this family who’d lost their mother a year before.

She whistled while she scrubbed. She made the house a home. And, she had a brother who brought education to life. He was exactly the kind of teacher I long to be: unconventional, caring, finding the unique and sensational in every student and every subject.

“Morrie thought up a doozy this time,” I confided to Rose insofar as I could. “I wish I could tell you, but it’s a —-“

“Ah, but I know all about it,” she whispered back, delicately fingering her cocoa cup. I kept forgetting how much time she and Morrie naturally spent together, sister and brother, out of our sight. “That man. You just never know what he will pull next, do you.” Her little conspiratorial smile seemed to approve of that, this time.” (p. 265)

I cannot do this book justice with my weak words. You must read it for yourself even if you are not a teacher. Or, a housekeeper. Or, familiar with rural Montana life from 100 years before. It makes no difference for the way this book will impact your life.

17 thoughts on “A Whistling Season”

  1. yay, yay, yay…I bought this book in 2009, so I MUST dig it out and read it. I love bloggers like you who give me a reason to read from my shelves. thanks so much


  2. What perfect timing – this book has been on my wish list forever and today is book club day. I'm going to print out some info and suggest it – thanks!BTW, I loved My Antonia… almost as much as O Pioneers! 😉


  3. There's a surprise to the ending, JoAnn, which should make your book club discussion interesting if you decide to read this. I'm still mulling it over in my head…


  4. Rather than focusing on a teacher's travails, which this book does in a small degree when the state superintendent comes to administer the one room school-house state standards (even in 1910 the did that; who knew?!), I found this book to focus on outstanding teaching. It was so inspirational to me, and at the same time a bit sad that this part of American culture, the country one room school, is gone forever.


  5. Sounds marvelous…teaching is something I've always been interested in, and I love to watch good teachers at work. The history of education in the rural areas is also interesting.Thanks for the reccomendation!


  6. Sounds like a wonderful read. I'm really interested in teaching and I am most definitely contemplating it as a possible career path for myself in the future. I'll add this to my TBR list and try and check it out. Great review.


  7. SuziQ gave this book such a glowing review that I rushed out to buy a copy . . . and still haven't read it. Figures. I'll get to it, someday. Good to know that you love it. I'm a fan of My Antonia; it's one of my all-time favorites. Maybe you'd enjoy it more as an adult?


  8. I just ordered the book, and it will be here on Tuesday. For some reason, this non-reader can't wait to read it!Actually, there are reasons it appeals. One is that I have a friend who ranches in Montana, and I've corresponded a bit with a woman who writes about the west, and who lives near the Swan Range.Beyond that, I've discovered my great-aunt Ina in the past year. If you happened to see my mama's birthday post, she was one of the three daughters in the tintype.Ina taught in a one-room school in Iowa, then moved to Colorado and then…. well, that's just going to have to wait for the writing of it.I can't wait to get this book! Thanks for making me aware of it.


  9. Linda, that touches me so much that you liked the review enough to go buy it already. Now I'm hoping you like it as much as I did! I did, of course, read your mama's birthday post, and it's good to know I've "seen" your Aunt Ina. I'll bet she had amazing stories of teaching in a one-room school, which is the kind my father attended until high school. He has amazing stories, I'll tell you that, one of which involves the teacher reading names of recipients of Valentines which broke his heart as he didn't receive any that year. It still makes me sad for him. Anyway, let me know when you've read the book; I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  10. My mom has been raving about this book ever since it first came out in hardcover. I have several books by Doig, but they're all in my TBR stacks. I will have to get this book now that I know you and my mom both loved it. She went to a one-room school and related to that aspect of the book. Oh, how I wish I had more hours in the day to read all the books I so want to read right now!!BTW, I read My Antonia about a dozen or so years ago. Loved it, but probably because it is set near (and in) Lincoln. I was still new to Nebraska and loved the way Cather captured the landscape with her writing. I went on to read O' Pioneers! and Death Comes For the Archbishop, as well as a few others. I had never even heard of Cather until the mid-90's!


  11. My father went to a one-room school as well. Those must have been wonderful experiences, to know everyone in the school so well! Or, maybe a little too close, but still, the intimacy would be more attainable than in the schools we have now. I try to make them as cozy as I can, but it's hard when our elementary school has 700+ children.This is my first Doig, I also have Bucking The Sun which I haven't yet read. He captures the country so beautifully, and the people who live there, in my opinion.I think I read My Antonia too soon. I should pick it up again now that I'm older. Old. 😉 You and Nancy both love it, so I wonder how I'd receive it at this time of my life.


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