Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book Review: The Bartender's Tale by Ivan Doig

Title: The Bartender's Tale
Author: Ivan Doig
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Source: Audible
This book would be rated: PG-13 for mild discussions of sex

It's sort of against my will that I like Ivan Doig's novels. They're all set in rural Montana, with male protagonists and (mostly) absent mothers. The characters can be rough, and no one is sophisticated. But I haven't read one yet that hasn't captivated me entirely. The Bartender's Tale is no exception. It's the story of Rusty Harry, a boy being raised by his father, Tom, who is the proprietor of a bar called the Medicine Lodge in Gros Ventre. The Medicine Lodge is an institution in northern Montana, and Tom is part of what makes the place so fine-- he listens to his customers, keeps the place spic and span, and knows how to keep control of the crowd. But the summer that Rusty turns twelve, their mundane life changes as people come into their world and complicate things.

As far as stories go, this is a quiet one. Rusty tells the story with the perspective of fifty years distance, and he refers to the summer as "the one that changed everything," and while I guess that's true, the changes also seem smaller somehow than you might expect from that buildup. But I guess that's what I like about Ivan Doig's novels-- his characters are so everyday, yet so real, that you care about them and want to know more even when the things that are happening to them might not be all that recountable. Also, the narration of this audiobook is absolutely perfect. 

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