The Bartender's Tale

The Bartender's Tale

4.1 50
by Ivan Doig
     
 

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From a great American storyteller, a one-of-a-kind father and his precocious son, rocked by a time of change.


Tom Harry has a streak of frost in his black pompadour and a venerable bar called The Medicine Lodge, the chief watering hole and last refuge of the town of Gros Ventre, in northern Montana. Tom

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Overview


From a great American storyteller, a one-of-a-kind father and his precocious son, rocked by a time of change.


Tom Harry has a streak of frost in his black pompadour and a venerable bar called The Medicine Lodge, the chief watering hole and last refuge of the town of Gros Ventre, in northern Montana. Tom also has a son named Rusty, an “accident between the sheets” whose mother deserted them both years ago.The pair make an odd kind of family, with the bar their true home, but they manage just fine. 


Until the summer of 1960, that is, when Rusty  turns twelve. Change arrives with gale force, in the person of Proxy, a taxi dancer Tom knew back when, and her beatnik daughter, Francine. Is Francine, as Proxy claims, the unsuspected legacy of her and Tom’s past? Without a doubt she is an unsettling gust of the future, upending every certainty in Rusty’s life and generating a mist of passion and pretense that seems to obscure everyone’s vision but his own. As Rusty struggles to decipher the oddities of adult behavior and the mysteries build toward a reckoning, Ivan Doig wonderfully captures how the world becomes bigger and the past becomes more complex in the last moments of childhood.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
…the rewards of The Bartender's Tale—a subtle and engaging narrative, characters who behave the way real people behave, the joys of careful and loving observation—remain very great and extremely rare. We live in a marketplace where the loudest and the lowest generally triumph, and Doig's new book is neither. Be glad there's still room for it, at least for now.
—Jon Clinch
Publishers Weekly
The summer of 1960 stretches wide in Doig’s highly textured and evocative new novel, which returns to Work Song and The Whistling Season’s Two Medicine County, Mont. After living half his life in Phoenix, Ariz., with his aunt, 12-year-old Russell “Rusty” Harry comes back to the tiny town of Gros Ventre to live with his father, Tom, the owner of a popular saloon. Rusty’s mother has been gone since she and Tom “split the blanket” 12 years ago. Rusty entertains himself in the cavernous back room, which Tom operates like a pawnshop, taking in all manner of miscellany so sheepherders, ranchers, and others can pay for their drinks. When a local cafe comes under new ownership, 12-year-old Zoe Constantine shows up and soon becomes Rusty’s partner in crime in the backroom, listening to the bar through a concealed air vent. It’s a summer of change and new arrivals, as Delano Robertson, from Washington, D.C., comes to Gros Ventre to record the “Missing Voices” of America, followed by the mysterious and sultry Proxy Duff and her 21-year-old daughter, Francine, who both claim a special connection to Tom. Filtering the world through Rusty’s eyes, Doig gives us a poignant saga of a boy becoming a man alongside a town and a bygone way of life inching into the modern era. Agent: Liz Darhansoff, Darhansoff & Verrill. (Aug.)
Library Journal
The year is 1960, and the protagonist at the center of this "bartender's tale" is Tom Harry, a beloved, no-nonsense bartender in Gros Ventre, MT, a sleepy town in remote northern sheep country. Tom is also a single father working long hours, trying to raise his 12-year-old son, Rusty, in this enjoyable, old-fashioned, warmhearted story about fathers and sons, growing up, and big life changes. Rusty is the narrator of the novel, and Doig (The Whistling Season) brings the young man's voice and perspective skillfully to life here. Rusty is puzzled by most of what he sees in the adult world, and there is little he can be sure of, except the love of his father. Doig poignantly captures the charm and pathos of Rusty's efforts to understand this complicated and often baffling adult world. Doig is famous for celebrating the American West, and he also beautifully captures the cadences and details of daily life in this Montana town. VERDICT Recommended for fans of generous, feel-good novels. [See Prepub Alert, 3/21/12]—Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT
Kirkus Reviews
His father's past both unsettles and entices Rusty Harry in Doig's latest loving portrait of Montana and its crusty inhabitants (Work Song, 2010, etc.). Some of Doig's best work (English Creek, 1984; The Whistling Season, 2006) has been narrated by young adolescents; the inquisitive perspective of boys puzzling out adult ways seems to suit an author with a sharp eye for the revealing particulars of everyday human behavior. Twelve-year-old Rusty is no exception, and the air vent in the back room of his father Tom's saloon, the Medicine Lodge, gives him an earful of grown-up goings-on in the town of Gros Ventre. But it's outsiders who really stir things up in the summer of 1960. First to arrive is Zoe, daughter of the local restaurant's new owners, who quickly becomes Rusty's best friend and, after they see a vividly described outdoor production of As You Like It, his fellow aspiring thespian. Next is Delano Robertson, an oral historian who wants Tom to help him gather reminiscences at the forthcoming reunion of workers from the New Deal's Fort Peck dam project--a period in his past the bartender does not seem anxious to recollect. We learn why (readers of Bucking the Sun, 1996, will already have guessed) at the reunion, where Tom is stunned by the appearance of Proxy, a taxi dancer at the wide-open bar he ran back then, who announces the existence of a daughter from their one-time fling. Disheveled Francine needs a refuge and a profession, so Tom agrees to let her learn his trade at the Medicine Lodge, while Rusty anxiously wonders if Proxy might be his long-gone mother. Doig expertly spins out these various narrative threads with his usual gift for bringing history alive in the odysseys of marvelously thorny characters. Possibly the best novel yet by one of America's premier storytellers.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101596838
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/21/2012
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
39,094
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

"The perfect book for your bedside table. Pick it up, lose yourself in the past and remember what it was like to be twelve years old, when your world and all the people who entered into it felt as fresh as the Montana mountain air." –Associated Press

“[The] rewards of The Bartender’s Tale—a subtle and engaging narrative, characters who behave the way real people behave, the joys of careful and loving observation—remain very great and extremely rare.“ –The Washington Post

“Doig cranks into motion a dense valentine of a novel about a father and a small town at the start of the 1960s… Doig writes the tenderness between Rusty and his father vividly, and his facility with natural, vernacular dialogue is often hypnotizing… The Bartender's Tale is thoroughly engaging, and the book's soft focus of nostalgia is in itself a kind of pleasure.” –NPR

“Doig is at his best with coming-of-age stories. And he is masterful at exploring the emotional complexities of family and community through the eyes of a precocious youth… [He] has fashioned a moving tale of tolerance, self-discovery and forgiveness in which a child comes to terms with his own origins and in the process opens a new door to his future.” –The Seattle Times

“With this expert novel, [Doig] sets himself a larger canvas and fills it with a diverse cast… Fact and fiction are skillfully fused to document a boy’s last days of youth and a history his father can’t leave behind… Rusty’s youthful adventures are enchanting, but Doig does something more—he punctuates them with the colorful local idiom of his father’s grizzled punters.” –Newsweek/Daily Beast

"Essential reading for anyone who cares about western literature." –Booklist (starred review)

“Doig expertly spins out [the] various narrative threads with his usual gift for bringing history alive in the odysseys of marvelously thorny characters… Possibly the best novel yet by one of America’s premier storytellers.” –Kirkus (starred review)

“Highly textured and evocative… Doig gives us a poignant saga of a boy becoming a man alongside a town and a bygone way of life inching into the modern era. " –Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[An] enjoyable, old-fashioned, warmhearted story about fathers and sons, growing up, and big life changes.” –Library Journal

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