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The Bartenders Tale

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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 BeastTom 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 bet. No one can tur

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Ween 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 fineUntil 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 unsuspe. There was a ti

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Cted 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 complex in the last moments of childhoo. I love to list

  • Paperback
  • 414
  • The Bartenders Tale
  • Ivan Doig
  • English
  • 15 February 2017
  • 9781594631481

10 thoughts on “The Bartenders Tale

  1. says:

    This story tugged at many heartstrings many times over while reading it Rusty Russell Harry is the narrator of the story and his perspective drew me in enraptured me and held me captive to what would happen nextWhen he was a baby his father left him with his sister brother in law and two nephews in Phoenix Arizona while he did his best to pull together his saloon The Medicine Lodge in Gros Ventre Montana Tom Thomas Harry made freuent trips to take his son on vacations together but Rusty remembers his time in Phoenix as torture – excepting those precious vacations with his father His uncle was hardly ever at home his aunt so busy and preoccupied she didn’t notice her sons’ gleeful mischief and mistreatment of the much smaller boy Rusty did his best not to cave to the pressure of not knowing when he would be set upon next but it was tough goingSuddenly when he is six years old his father comes to take him home to Gros Ventre His entire life takes on new dimensions and he and his father rub along very well as senior and junior bachelors together for years Then the summer holidays when Rusty is twelve his life and his father’s change radically Everything was still in its place – the saloon that kept them fed the home that offered them a place to rest – but people started appearing in their lives that changed them bothRusty met his best friend and soul mate strangers from the past pop up in their lives and shift things around – some may or may not be related to them which adds to the confusion for Rusty He also finds out his father is famous relatively speaking and that is part of the disturbance in their lives Suddenly other people want time with Tom and some even want to lay claim to himThe storytelling in this novel is flawless and all I wanted to do was be in the story 247 Just like Rusty’s life however other things in my world pulled me away several times Even so each time I picked up this book again the story wrapped me up in its humour its mysteries its thoughts and feelings as experienced by 12 year old RustyThis novel cements it for me Ivan Doig is a fabulous storyteller and the speech patterns rhythms and odd phrases many double negatives felt so real in the conversations between characters that the narrative flowed with exceptional authenticityI highly recommend this to everyone who loves great storytelling endearing characters and writing that keeps you immersed throughout What a wonderful reading experience this is

  2. says:

    No one can turn the mundane to magic better than Ivan Doig and the proof is in THE BARTENDER'S TALE This is the fourth Doig novel I've read and it may just be my favorite Pull up a barstool order a Select beer and prepare to be enchanted Russell Rusty Harry is our narrator an old man who takes us back to the summer of 1960 in the fictional town of Gros Ventre Montana Rusty was twelve that summer and he and his father Tom had been living together in splendid bachelorhood for six years They ate tomato soup for breakfast fished for rainbow trout with chicken guts for bait and kept the customers happy at the Medicine Lodge where Tom Harry was known as the best bartender in Montana Twelve going on thirteen is an age of wonder We're still young enough to enjoy childish pleasures but old enough to begin snooping around in the adult world collecting information the grown ups have withheld from us all our lives For Rusty that adolescent excitement is heightened by the arrival of several eye opening outsiders as the summer progresses Delano Robertson is a young man obsessed with regional vernacular He shows up in Gros Ventre with his Gab Lab ready to record the Missing Voices of the old timers His enthusiasm and good nature help him weather the embarrassing moments of initiation into Montana lifeZoe Constantine moves into town from Butte when her parents take over the local diner She and Rusty become co conspirators as only twelve year olds can do They spend the summer polishing their acting skills and eavesdropping on the Medicine Lodge patrons through a hidden ventMost disturbing of all Proxy Shannon purrs on in from Reno driving a bright red Cadillac with her grown daughter Francine in tow Is Francine Tom's love child and Rusty's half sister? And while we're on the subject of parenthood why won't Tom tell Rusty who his mother was? Vague answers will no longer satisfy Rustyuirky and complex characters playful dialogue and small town shenanigans carry us through that summer of 1960 in the shadow of Glacier National Park Adjust your gears to allow for a slower pace and give yourself the time to fall in love The end of the story is not sad but I cried when I finished I had spent almost three weeks with these characters as my companions and I didn't want to leave them That's the sorcery of Ivan Doig He invites us into his imaginary world and makes us feel so welcome that we would gladly trade our real lives for the chance to be one of his characters

  3. says:

    The Bartender’s Tale is set in a small Montana town Gros Ventre nestled amidst sagebrush fields green with alfalfa and parades of sheep on the mountain slopes For the local businessmen ranchers and shepherds the Medicine Lodge is a saloon of near mythic status where Tom Harry the legendary bartender serves up just the right kind of drinks and conversation that magically match what each customer needs This heartwarming story is told from the perspective of 12 year old Rusty who looks up to his bachelor bartender father as the ‘best human being’ and the ‘absolute best father of all time’ Looked after by his paternal aunt in Phoenix when his father was busy tending bar Rusty spent the first six years of his life terrorized by his older male cousins until his father brings him to Montana to share his life at the Medicine Lodge Rusty is allowed to be in the backroom of the joint fixing up model planes but also eavesdropping on the stories of the customers through the air vent He is lonely until Zoe a girl his age comes to town with her café owner parents and the two become the best of friends They both discover their calling in theatre that summer when Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ visited Gros Ventre Some of the loveliest writing are of Tom connecting with his young son introducing him to card games driving him to the reservoir and together ‘giving the fish hell’Life looks rosy for Rusty but he is old enough to suspect that the past of which he knows nothing may catch up with the present Tom never talks about himself nor does he tell Rusty about his mother Rusty worries about his father who makes freuent sudden business trips to Canada ostensibly to sell the loot left by customers who are unable to pay for their booze He wonders if there is a woman in his father’s life who will one day change both their existenceIvan Doig does an impressive job putting himself into the shoes of an adolescent boy and capturing how Rusty thinks and navigates his way around the adult world Wonder delight and awe are mingled with uncertainty befuddlement and fear There is engaging plot development that keeps the reader on edge in hopes that Rusty’s world will not be shaken and that the Medicine Lodge continues to be a haven of solace and joy Rusty recalls 1960 the momentous year marked by major life changing events view spoilerThe Medicine Lodge wins a coveted award as the most outstanding waterhole so it is shocking for Rusty and for me to learn of Tom’s intention to sell his saloon This crisis presents significant challenges Into this uncertain future comes Del an oral historian who wants to interview and record Tom’s earlier bartending success at the Blue Eagle in Fork Peck during the years of the depression On his heels is Proxy a catamount wild cat of a woman former dancer at the Blue Eagle with news for Tom and implications for the Medicine Lodge hide spoiler

  4. says:

    There was a time when I bought every Ivan Doig book published Dancing at Rascal Fair is still on my list of all time best readsThen came Bucking the Sun I grew up 20 miles from Ft Peck Dam Went to high school with kids bussed in from Ft Peck I knew about the “dam towns” like Wheeler where the legendry Blue Eagle Tavern was run by bartender Tom Harry My father arrived there in 1934 and sold water to businessmen and dam workers and their families alike Something just felt “off” about Bucking the Sun It felt like Doig “tried too hard” Years passed Then a friend loaned me The Bartender’s Tale and I fell in love with Doig all over againLike the narrator Rusty Harry I grew up an only child who “lived in the back of the family business” in a small Montana town At 12 Rusty and I had a lot in common Believe me Doig got all the nuances right It’s a combination of being left on your own and helping out with the dirty work Rusty swamped floors and polished the eyes of the dead animals that hung behind the bar My job was mangling sheets and pillow cases in the motel laundry in the morning and manning the cash register later in the day And all the time you listenedThe Medicine Lodge saloon Tom Harry’s business in the mythical western town of Gros Ventre reminds me of one of the bars I walked past on Front Street in my home town In summer when the doors stayed open 16 hours a day the smells of stale beer and unwashed men’s bodies made me hurry by But I took a few good peeks inside and saw the big animal heads over the bar and felt the ambiance clear out on the sidewalkThe story—of Rusty and his father Tom Harry a multi faceted man with a past Rusty’s sidekick a new girl in town Zoe Constantine also 12 Delano Robertson newcomer who’s recording the voices of old timers for a national project Proxy Shannon from Tom’s Ft Peck past and her daughter Francine—branches out every which way The tale is like the two story high cottonwood tree named Igdrasil that grows in the alley between The Medicine Lodge saloon and Tom’s house in backAnd if the goings on in Gros Ventre and secret trips by Tom to Canada aren’t enough wait until you accompany all the characters back to a 25th Ft Peck reunion And back again to Gros VentreDon’t start reading The Bartender’s Tale unless you have a good sized chunk of time to devote to reading It will take over your life for 387 pages

  5. says:

    My time scarred father was no movie star nor was he a Dust Bowl Okie but his face was a badge of the decade as surely as if printed on a coin Ivan Doig has a way of telling a story that charms me right down to my toes The Bartender’s Tale is yet another example of a slowly meandering story without a lot of action and yet it made for such delightful stretches of reading time; it was the perfect escape from the hectic pace of life as it has been for the last two weeks How does he always do this? Twelve year old Russ Harry is our amiable young narrator regaling us with the story of life with his Pop who is the owner and bartender of the Medicine Lodge aka “the joint” in Gros Ventre MT It’s the summer of 1960 which for Russ means time spent at the joint with his father boyhood freedom a newfound best friend and discoveries about a past that his father has as of yet managed to conceal All these things combine to set the stage for one memorable summer and many exceptional charactersI always feel sad to turn the final page of a book like this where I’ve spent time with characters that feel like family The family represented in these pages is formed partly by blood but also by friendships It’s all about what you make of the situation you’re in and who you’re in it with Where I found it in me I don’t know but I sounded like Pop than he himself sometimes did “You got to play the hand you been dealt That’s rule number one”

  6. says:

    I loved the Western setting Montana seems to be a place that has somehow managed to retain a lot of the 1880’s and 1890’s feel Doig conveys this in his 1955 through 1960’s time frame The story is about a young boy who’s been abandoned by his mother as an infant and deposited with his paternal aunt in Arizona until he turns six That’s when his pop the erstwhile bartender of this story swoops down and takes him home to MT They both have some adjusting to do but after some initial discomfort the two get on well in fact than well They’re two bachelors making a life for themselves though a somewhat unconventional one There don’t seem to be many straight forward relationships in inaptly named town Gros Venture It’s a sheep herding area and some of the herders are Harry the bartender’s best customers They’re also some of the colorful ones There are other regulars like the local reporter and the town’s multiple divorcee who lives off all the money she’s made divorcing wellAs with most of us young Rusty has experiences that mold and change him He lives in fear that his dad will bring home a wife a ‘mother’ for him and he’ll be shunted to the background again as he was for his first six years when he only saw his dad for short periods Then a wonderful new friend moves into town Zoe is a girl his own age who becomes his best friend The two spend an idyllic summer together but just below the surface there are seismic changes afootI almost hesitate to write this but this is a sweet almost old fashioned tale It’s about human relationships human connections and goodness It’s about how a person’s personality is shaped and it’s about a boy loving his dad and caring deeply for a few other important people in his life It’s also about growing a conscious and learning one’s own values deciding what is right and what is wrong and choosing a future beyond a career It’s about choosing to have character It doesn’t hurt that Doig’s a wonderful wordsmith

  7. says:

    This is a mid 20th century coming of age story set in a small Montana town The story focuses on the summer of 1960 when the narrator is 12 years of age I have heard it said that there are only 2 stories a stranger comes to town and a person goes on a journey This is the former with several strangers entering the boy’s life through this summer The author creates a sense of intimacy with the reader This could have been a guy sharing his story over a beer at the corner bar Unfortunately as with most real life people who share their meandering stories with me half way through I was growing impatient for the narrator to get to the point This may say about my lack of attention or interest in the lives of others than it says about the writing of this author This started as a solid 4 star read for me but was sliding to 3 stars as my eagerness for the final page grew 35 stars

  8. says:

    IMO It took 250 pages for this book to finally get its footing Considering there's only 385 pages in this book that just doesn't cut it The story itself had potential a bartender and his son living in Montana in early 1960 a year that would change many things for them The son Rusty is likeable enough and Doig does a great job capturing the speech and essense of a 12 year old during this time period His father Tom is smart but set in his ways until he is inevitably pushed to look at things in a new way a very fitting start to what would be a decade of huge changes What I really can't stand is the slow slow pace of this book Characters are introduced slowly the impact takes a long time to show I don't mind the fact that the author decided to focus on one year but I just couldn't stand the way the year moved by like molasses By the time the end rolled around I felt like I already knew what was going to happen The author dwelled so long in his characters that their actions became predictable To me that's just uninspired storytellingI give this two stars because its readable and the last 14 of the book is pretty good however I wouldn't recommend this to others

  9. says:

    I love to listen to audiobooks on long road trips It is hard to find one that my husband will tolerate and that is appropriate for my teenage daughter The audiobook version of The Bartenders Tale is a great choice for my familyWe live in the west and most of our trips are to other western states The bulk of this story is set in small town Montana The story begins when a father Tom Harry travels to Phoenix to claim his young son Rusty Russell and takes him home Tom is the best bartender in Montana in part because of his ability to listen and to draw people out He raises his son in bachelor bliss until they encounter Proxy a sexy bottle blond with a steamy past and her daughter Francine Francine has a sharp tongue and a past of her ownThis description sounds R rated than this book really is The Bartender's Tale is good story telling about ways of life that are disappearing Ivan Doig writes about the small town diners fishing derbies pawn shops beer tours and Triple A baseball This is also an ode to fatherhood It's hard to find books about compelling single fathers Tom Harry may not be the perfect man but in this story he was the perfect father Almost everyone loves him and he brings out the best most people that he meetsWhile this may seem to be a celebration in all things stereotypically male I liked the relationships storytelling and setting Women as well as men will enjoy this one

  10. says:

    I really like Ivan Doig's writing which I think of as both sophisticated and down to earth if that's possible For example in describing the vocabulary of a friendship central to The Bartender's Tale Doig writes Inevitably added to what we heard in the bar was every particle of radio serial and comic strip and movie dialogue that was silly enough to remember piled up and waiting in two active twelve year old brains like ingredients filling a flour sifter All it took for that powder of imagination to sieve through in good measure was for one or the other of us to turn the crank Good stuff The Bartender's Tale is the story of twelve year old Rusty and his bachelor saloon bartender father Tom and what happens to them in the summer of 1960 when a new girl Rusty's age a woman from Tom's past and her daughter and a man recording voices from a dam built in a nearby town all arrive in their small Montana town and upends their world a bit I thought the novel built slowly before sweeping the reader through the ending in a terrific gush I don't mean any of that as a criticism This is a good story that was great fun to read

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