With its rush of deadlines and journalistic cast of unforgettable characters amid the clatter of typewriters and jangle of telephones, the novel at one level is a love song to daily newspapers, where author Ivan Doig begin his writing career. At another level, Sweet Thunder is a domestic romp of Shakespearean proportions, with the confusions of identity as Morrie, Grace, a pair of aged miners with a penchant for expressing themselves in Welsh, and the titanic book-mad librarian, Sam Sandison—aka “the Earl of Hell”—all inhabit a Horse Thief Row mansion threatening to fall down over their ears.
In yet another sense, this novel is a high-spirited, inventive, but historically acute portrait of a conflicted America roaring into the Twenties with Gilded Age antagonisms and Red Scare jitters still on its mind. Through it all, with mortal consequences looming if he slips up, Morrie must use his wits to elude the precipitous situations that somehow seek him out and chase him.
While masterfully fresh in its approach, this third in the trilogy of tales featuring the nimble wordsmith adds, to the compassionate resolution of The Whistling Season and its one-room school and the redemptive anthem of Work Song and its polyglot community of miners, a bold declaration of identity and coming to grips with the who we—as American, as individuals, and as lovers of treasured books—are and wish to be.
"I was thrilled to crack open Ivan Doig's newest novel to find not only has he brought me back to his beloved Montana, he has allowed two of my favorite Doig characters to lead the way.
Set in 1920, odd circumstances return newlyweds Morrie and Grace to the rough and ready town of Butte. Morrie's love of words leads him to the position of ghost editor at the brand-new union newspaper aptly named Thunder. With the aim of breaking the stranglehold the Anaconda Copper Mining Co. has on the local miners Morrie's editorial arrows hit home more often than not. Doig braids the miner's story, Prohibition (with it's inevitable bootleggers), and Morrie and Grace's personal life together effortlessly. Ivan Doig's love affair with Montana continues."