Title: The Bartender's Tale
Author: Ivan Doig
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Edition: eGalley and audiobook
Reader: David Aaron Baker (excellent)
Source: Edelweiss and Library(audio)
Date Completed: October/2012
Rating: 5/5Recommend: yes
The Bartender's Tale is a tender coming of age story set in beautiful, rural, Gros Ventre, Montana in 1960. As the story begins, the young narrator Rusty Harry has been living a miserable life in Phoenix, Arizona with his father's sister, Aunt Marge. Rusty is constantly being tormented by his older cousins. One day Rusty is rescued by his single father Tom Harry, and he is taken from Arizona back to Montana where Tom runs the Medicine Lodge saloon. Although they get off to a rocky start but before long it's obvious that Rusty's life has changed for the better.
Rusty doesn't have any real friends until, Zoe, the daughter of the new diner owner moves into town. They become best friends and spend their after school times in a room above the saloon doing homework, and learning about real life through a hidden peep-hole vent that looks into the saloon. From that vantage point the two get a crystallized view of what adults talk about and the messes they can often get themselves into.
The Bartender's Tale is one of the best stories I've listened to this year. The reader, David Aaron Baker is fantastic and makes for a captivating novel. What makes this story so special is that it beautifully captures how I imagined small town life to be in the early 1960s. The sense of place was warm, friendly, and yet not without problems, yet the beauty of Montana shines through and through. The author is a master at letting you get to know his characters, and by the end, making you feel like they've been people you've known for many years. Rusty was an awesome narrator for a 12 year old - perceptive, curious and I especially enjoyed watching him discover skeletons in hist father's closet along the way. At times I felt like a voyeur in this saloon as Rusty, Zoe and I watched the goings on through the floor vent above.
Add to all this, an old fashioned, clean story about a single dad and his son, an interesting historian by the name of Delano Robertson who cruises into town to interview Tom and stays for the summer, a woman from Tom's past and her daughter, and rural life in Montana comes alive.An old fashioned story that you'll long remember, do yourself a favor and read this special book. Although this is my first experience reading anything by Ivan Doig, it won't be my last.