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Lawrence Public Library Best of the West Book Discussions
Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan Doig is second of the Lawrence Public Library Best of the West four-part book discussion series. The last page turned only yesterday after spending two nights reading until 1:00 am. I am not ready to let go of the story and am glad the discussion is this Thursday evening, April 15.
The book discussion series is considering classics of Western genre writing. The group's first book, The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, was also a compelling read as was the discussion led by Joyce Thierer, Professor at Emporia State University and Flint Hills land owner. The discussion Thursday will be led by Marilyn Klaus, Kansas University.
Dancing at the Rascal Fair is the story of two Scottish friends who immigrate to America in the 1880s and end up in northern Montana Two Medicine country as sheep ranchers. Sheep and the surrounding mountain range are constant story lines throughout . The writing is poetic, beautifully descriptive. So much so that I know if I traveled to the area of Montana where this book is set, I would recognize it immediately.
The book is more than that, though. The first quarter of the book we are on the ship as it crosses the Atlantic and on the trip across the United States—true insights into millions of similar immigrant stories. The narrative is set later than most, and the author somewhat addresses the land settlement from the native Blackfoot tribe's perspective. Other side stories are the setting aside land for the “Yew Ess Forest Service,” the flu epidemic of 1918 and World War I.
Ultimately, though, the book is about two stubborn men who find early love, eventually marry, have children and with the help and friendship of neighbors, their lives intertwine. I will say, the story does not go where I thought it might. But, in that, it is compelling. A wonderful book.
The last two books in the discussion series are Buffalo Girls by Larry McMurtry led by Erin Pouppirt and Shane by Jack Shaefer led by Kevin Rabas. Books and discussion leaders for this series provided by the Kansas Humanities Council. For information about the series, check the library web site.