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.
About Ivan Doig
A third-generation Montanan, Ivan Doig is the author of thirteen previous books, including the Indiebound bestseller Work Song and the classic memoir This House of Sky. He has been a National Book Award finalist and has received the Wallace Stegner Award, among many other honors. He lives in Seattle
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. – Kirkus Reviews
”The Bartender’s Tale” by Ivan Doig
The Washington Post Book Review – August 31, 2012 (Excerpt)
In a culture obsessed with texting but careless about text, where a winner of the Pulitzer Prize tweets a story for the New Yorker 140 characters at a time, what on Earth are we to make of this slow-paced new novel from 73-year-old Ivan Doig? “The Bartender’s Tale” works slowly, building up observations such as this one: “People come and go in our lives; that’s as old a story as there is. But some of them the heart cries out to keep forever, and that is a fresh saga every time.” That adds up to 158 characters right there — one an economical, old-fashioned semicolon — and I don’t know how a person could whittle away 18 of them without losing something essential.
In a market where E L James’s trilogy of suburban S&M accounts for the sale of one in five volumes of adult fiction, Doig dares to offer us no sadomasochistic sex whatsoever (and precious little of any other kind). Then again, his narrative is told through the eyes of a child: 12-year-old Rusty Harry, now grown to adulthood and casting his mind back to the transformational summer of 1960. [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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