The Bartender’s Tale
Author: Ivan Doig
Finished: December 29, 2018
When the book begins young Rusty is living with his aunt and two tormenting cousins. Before long his father, Tom, comes to take him back to Gros Ventre, Montana. Tom is the owner and bartender of The Medicine Lodge. Rusty and Tom – a single parent – get to know one another. The novel sometimes reads as a set of stories but as we get deeper into it see how it all hangs together. Rusty is curious about his mother, who Tom never talks about.
Before long, a new family comes to town to run the local diner and Rusty meets Zoe. Wary at first they became fast friends and have adventures and secrets together. Other characters are introduced that help us learn more about Tom’s interesting past life.
Ivan Doig tells a good story and uses wonderfully describes The West:
Beneath the bare cottonwood trees, English Creek was frozen over, an icy pond that went on for miles. The entire town of Gros Ventre looked like something that had been left in the freezer too long. [p 57]
It’s a very fun book and a quick read. The characters are individuals and the story telling is fast paced and moves towards the conclusion.
My biggest – and it’s not that big – issue is that at times Rusty and Zoe seem much older than their school age. Here is a conversation they have when they are attending an event at which Tom is feted; Zoe starts out:
“So? He doesn’t have stage fright, does he?”
“He doesn’t have a speech.”
“Ooh, that’s not good.” She thought for a moment. “Maybe he can tell them it fell out of his pocket back at the brewery and went into one of those big vats, and so the next time they have a beer, they’ll have a taste of what he meant to say” [p 140]
Said no 12 year-old ever.
Unfortunately, Doig passed away in 2015. Thankfully he left a rich treasure trove behind. The Bartender’s Tale is part of the Two Medicine Country series, which I plan to read more of. The Whistling Season (not part of the series) is on my virtual bookshelf.
A couple of my yoga group friends recommended Ivan Doig to me; I’ll be paying close attention to their recommendations in the future. Good stuff