The Bartender's Tale

The Bartender's Tale

Book - 2012
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Running a venerable bar in 1960 Montana while raising his twelve-year-old son, single father Tom Harry finds his world upended by the arrival of a woman from his past and her beatnik daughter, who claims Tom as her father.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2012.
ISBN: 9781594487354
Branch Call Number: Fic Doig
Characteristics: 387 p. ; 24 cm.


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Jul 15, 2018

Told through the eyes of Russell, we're drawn into the experiences he has the year he turns 12. Being raised by his Dad, the owner/bartender of Medicine Lodge saloon in a small town in MT decades ago, Doig's storytelling style bears resemblance to Richard Russo or Hemingway. Lighthearted, heart rendering and joyful in all respects. Not having read his work previously, he's a master at his craft using words as a paintbrush, the pages canvas. This is one of those stories that's simply impossible NOT to like regardless of age, sex or ideology. It reminds us humanity is what's important in life and that alone makes it unique. HIGHLY recommended.

ArapahoeAnnaL Feb 04, 2018

Another beautifully written coming of age story in the 1960's small town American west; this time in Montana. An only child and his best friend spy on the adult world trying to learn the identity of the boy's mother.

Jul 16, 2017

This was my first Ivan Doig experience and I'm now searching for all I can find by this author. Delightful humor amid the colorful description and compelling, lovable characters. Listened to the audiobook and the narrator's mellow voice complete with gentle drawl was perfect.

Mar 17, 2016

In Ivan Doig’s The Bartenders’s Tale, Rusty’s young life took a turn for the better when he was six years old. He was the result of an accident between the sheets and was being raised by his Aunt Marge and tortured by his older cousins. At six, his father rescued him and took him back to Gros Ventre, Montana to live with him. Tom Harry, his father is the World’s Best Bartender, a listener who soaks up the stories and troubles of his customers as he polishes the bar with his white towel. He is no talker, he’s a listener, and he tells no tales.

His father teaches him to fish, lets him play in the back room of the bar which filled to the rafters with gear, tack and fascinating bits and pieces of the West that customers short of money have exchanged for their beer. His dad occasionally heads off to Canada to sell off some of the stuff for some extra money, something that always leaves Rusty fraught with fears of loss and abandonment. Those six years with Aunt Marge loom large in part because his father is unaware of his fears and not being a demonstrative or talkative man, is unable to provide the reassurance he needs.

Things change during the summer of Rusty’s twelfth year. He gets to work one day a week cleaning the bar, being in the front with his dad. He meets a new friend, Zoe, with whom he becomes inseparable. Del, a collector of stories and dialects comes to town to encourage Tom to go to a reunion bringing together the folks who worked on the Fort Peck Dam and Proxy, a long-lost associate of Tom’s delivers his 21 year old daughter to his door, a daughter he never knew existed so she can learn the bartending trade.

So much is happening and it’s all so exciting and Rusty can hardly understand it all – and while he needs so many answers from his father, he instead spends hours analyzing and assessing everything with his best friend Zoe. It’s a lovely story of childhood that rings true. Rusty is a great kid, kind, generous and perceptive, but he’s still a kid and gets things wrong. He really needs answers from his dad and eventually he does. His dad does have a story to tell him and when he finally tells him, Rusty is freed from doubt. But it’s a fun and heartwarming story getting there.

Ivan Doig has been one of my favorite writers ever since I sat down one afternoon, picked up The Sea Runners and forgot the rest of the world existed until then end of that most incredible voyage. I have read his fiction and nonfiction writing and loved it all. I was heartbroken when he died last year. The Bartender’s Tale is no exception. It is a wonderful and lovely novel that I enjoyed a lot. It takes us back to familiar places that have been the home of several of his novels.

The Bartender’s Tale is not as sharp as some of his other novels. Centered on the 12 year old worldview, it is more innocent and naive even when there are goings-on “between the sheets.” Some of the characters seem more two-dimensional that I expect to find in a Doig novel. However, the central father-son relationship seems so honest and true that everything else becomes minor quibbles. And again, as in everything Doig has ever written, the setting is a character in the novel as potent and present as any person. Wallace Stegner, the great writer of the West, once said that the literature of the West was all about hope. Doig was in that same tradition and The Bartender’s Tale is a true tale of the West.

Feb 07, 2016

I loved this book! It was good, clean, old-fashioned fun, mostly about a wonderful relationship between a father and his 12-year old son. It was well written, and it touched a deep emotional chord within me. I recommend it highly.

Oct 19, 2015

Aside from some unlikely dialogue from two overly precocious preteen actors-to-be, the author ties things up (perhaps a bit too tightly) skillfully in the end. Plus it was fun to revisit the fictional town of Gros Ventre in the Two Medicine country, the scene for Doig's earlier trilogy, as experienced from the backroom of the Medicine Lodge.

PimaLib_MaryG Sep 21, 2015

This is one of Ivan Doig's best and that is saying a lot. A year in the life of 12-year-old Rusty and his single father, the town bartender, as told through the eyes of Rusty.

May 05, 2015

There were parts where the story dragged and some twists that were expected but I enjoyed the tale overall. It gave that old timey, Americana feeling. It reminded me of NPR's "This American Life". The story painted a picture of days gone bye with an entertaining cast of characters. The only downside, like I said before, there were parts where the story dragged and I found myself thinking "where is this going?" Would I recommend it? Sure. Top of my list to tell people to read? Probably not but worth checking out.

Jan 08, 2015

Love Ivan Doig, this one was easy to enjoy.

Dec 11, 2013

Another fabulous story set in a particular time and place in Montana. Love Doig's voice in all his stories. Listened to this one and the audio production was excellent.

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