Ivan Doig begins with his mother's death, when he was six in 1945, and ends with his grandmother's death--and a close call of his own--nearly 30 years later. In between: a dazzling, lyrical summoning of his Montana childhood. ""Memory, the near-neighborhood of dreams, is almost as casual in its hospitality,"" but Doig firmly gives us the rhythms of the valley--""the pinwheel life of a ranch,"" lambing time demands, a murderous summer storm--and the lives that flamed around him. His father, bruised with grief, moved seasonally from one job to another, tried life with a second woman (""a slow bleed of a marriage""), and then made a deep sacrifice, inviting his dead wife's mother, whom he disliked, to join them. These two, an embattled odd couple, stuck it out for the boy (""Ours remained a brink of a family"") and in time arrived at a truce of unstated affection. Ivan was regularly boarded out: ""I had some knack then for living at the edges of other people's existences."" Dupuyer was a favorite town, basic and secure, where he lived with a gentle landlady and thrived on the support of a bedrock English teacher. (Mrs; Tidyman was so much the grammarian that she could say of another woman, ""Once you get used to her split infinitives, you'll find she's a nice person."") Doig pursues ""blood hunches,"" reads meaning into old photographs (two sisters with ""mouths straight as bible lines""), and recalls with unerring strokes a scabbed land where ""even starts don't seem to count for much."" The years after--journalism at Northwestern, newspapering, graduate school--lack the diamond-sharp edge of his youth, but the necessary assumption of responsibility for his aging father and grandmother completes a loop of loving protection. The stirring debut of a gifted writer: Doig spins straw into gold.