The Bartender's Tale

The Bartender's Tale

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by Ivan Doig
     
 

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A national bestseller, the story of “a boy’s last days of youth and a history his father can’t leave behind” (The Daily Beast).

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 in the town of Gros Ventre, in northern Montana. Tom also has a

Overview

A national bestseller, the story of “a boy’s last days of youth and a history his father can’t leave behind” (The Daily Beast).

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 in 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. The Bartender’s Tale wonderfully captures how the world becomes bigger and the past becomes more complex in the last moments of childhood.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Audio
An easy-paced memory of Americana, childhood, dreams, and reality set in Montana in the late 1950s is revealed through Doig's excellent writing and David Baker's equally high-quality narration. Through the viewpoint of Rusty from ages seven to 12, the reader is introduced to a variety of exotic characters starting with the boy's father, with whom he has had scant contact up to the beginning of the story. As Rusty's only visible parent, Tom Harry, the owner and bartender of the Medicine Lodge, takes over the care and feeding of his son. Baker's crusty interpretation of Tom contrasts wonderfully with Rusty's childlike though not childish voice. VERDICT As open and simple as the prairie sky, as deep and complicated as the rushing waters of the rivers, this is a book for a multitude of readers. ["Recommended for fans of old-fashioned, big-hearted, feel-good novels," read the review of the New York Times best-selling Riverhead: Penguin hc, LJ 7/12.—Ed.]—J. Sara Paulk, Wythe-Grayson Regional Lib., Independence, VA
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781464043277
Publisher:
Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date:
08/21/2012

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

Meet the Author

Ivan Doig is the author of ten previous novels, most recently Work Song, and three works of nonfiction, including his classic first book, This House of Sky. He lives in Seattle.

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The Bartender's Tale 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
Dave58 More than 1 year ago
When I first read the teaser, I was a bit concerned that it would be a pre-teen or tween book. I was quite surprised to find that although the main character is around 12 years old, it had much more to do about life and the troubles we all face. The characters were very well developed, quite believable and I was able to relate to both the son and the father during the course of the book. I had never read any of Mr. Doig's books before, but am looking forward to more of them!
Leslie50 More than 1 year ago
Mr Doig is always worth the read, a great story teller
MrsO More than 1 year ago
I always feel enriched after reading one of Mr. Doig's wonderful books.  Charming characters, a few surprises, believable stories that make me feel close to the people.  Loved this book from page one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's written well nice pace. Told through the eyes of a boy who is afraid of losing the one constant in his life and realizing just who this person really is loved it. Good read for anyone .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Doig's voice, which is why I keep coming back to his writing. Doig sounds clear in this story for sure, sending readers right into his Montanan Two Medicine Country to follow the formation and redefinition of "family." If you've liked any of his other stuff, whether fiction or non, this is for you. In a way too, this develops other stories of his in interesting ways (i.e.-Bucking The Sun), though this tale stands well enough on its own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This spectacularly well written book tells a wonderful story about a father son relationship. The characters are vivid and unforgettable. I thought I wasn't interested in how a 12 year old boy thinks, but this book is just wonderful at evoking a specific time and place and relationship. Very western. Having been to Montana many times it resonated with the specific mindset out there, but from anywhere you can appreciate these very well drawn characters.
namwob More than 1 year ago
I loved Doig's "The Bartender's Tale." It's convincingly told by a young boy. I grew up in Montana and could picture the people, the geographic setting, and, of course, THE bar. The author had great insight that made the characters believable: you understand their personal foibles and also are given a window to their inner goodness, "The Bartender's Tale" is a book that is hard to put down and one you will not want to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel captures the essence of Montana and family relationships. Ivan Doig is talented with describing vivid word pictures and this is one of his best.
Iamsue More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written. Doig is a favorite author, and this one does not disappoint. Hated to reach the last page and have to leave Rusty, Zoe, and Tom.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As always, the author weaves a great story with a definite theme and conclusion. Easy to read--hard to put down! Would help if you'd read "Bucking the Sun" first--another great story by I. Doig.
Rishcik70 More than 1 year ago
If you have not read Doig before, this should make you a believer. As compared to the much hullablooed "Canada" by Richard Ford, Doig's Bartender's Tale is real, tender and beautiful... Go out and get all his books (there are trilogies, continuing characters, all beautiful)...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great story, one you don't want to finish. This is a wonderful package from start to end, all threads are beautifully tied together, a masterpiece really. Family is always tough to live with and write about and Mr. Doig has done an incredible job, he nails this story. The end is fabulous! Great for young adults to senior citizens.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent addition to Ivan Doig's Two Medicine - English Creek books. It weaves in with his other books yet is an excellent stand alone volume.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book. His characters are always so memorable, true, and utterly believable.If you have read other books by Ivan Doig, you will remember the characters from past books. To a person who grew up in the Northeast, this is a slice of Americana not easily found elsewhere.
VALizzie More than 1 year ago
I have read many of Ivan Doig's books and have found all to be highly entertaining. Doig'scharacter come alive on the pages of his books. He is able to transport the reader to the area of Montana that embraces the beauty of nature and the wholesomeness of the people who inhabit the state. The reader gets to know the 12 year old boy who has had an unsettled early childhood before coming to live with his unusual bar owning father. You will be drawn into the many adventures of his 12th summer and remember what it was like trying to understand the adult world. You will get to know the many diverse characters who reside in this part of Montana and will be entertained by the storytelling skills of the author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ivan Doig is such a good storyteller.
Van26 More than 1 year ago
This book starta with a bang and then slows to a crawl. It was not one of my favorites,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An awesome author with uncommon sensibilities.
lschuh More than 1 year ago
A wonderful told tale. Vivid landscape and people. I am now going back to read the other books he's written !!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really good for the first 250 pages then it flows slowly
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hello?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Somewhat slow and repetitive. The last third it picks up nicely.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a dissapointment from this wonderful author. Reads like a made for tv movie. Couldn't have cared less what happened to the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago