Rusty spends his first six years being tormented by his obnoxious cousins while living with his aunt in Arizona. Rusty’s origins are a bit murky. His father is charismatic Tom Harry, a bar tender par excellent in Gros Vetre Montana. The only thing Rusty knows about his Mom is that she is gone.
Tom rescues Rusty from his spiteful cousins and he settles into a bachelor’s life with his dad in a big old house behind the bar in the remote Montana town. It is a pretty good life, uncomplicated and harmonious, father and son looking out for each other.
All goes swimmingly until Rusty turns twelve and Proxy, an old flame of Tom’s, hits town with her teenage daughter. Is the daughter Rusty’s sister? And what will happen now to Rusty’s idyllic life with Tom?
Ivan Doig’s lyrical prose, wry humor, and rich storytelling are a treasure. You go Ivan!— Deon Stonehouse
September 2012 Indie Next List
“Always one of the West's best storytellers, Doig has achieved here the perfect fictional mix: winning, believable characters; an intricate, timely, and surprising plot; and a Montana setting that pivots between the early days of JFK in the 1960s and the 1930s of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I frequently fall in love with books, but The Bartender's Tale is no mere infatuation!the love I feel for it will last a lifetime.”
— Betsy Burton, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT
A national bestseller, the story of “a boy’s last days of youth and a history his father can’t leave behind” (The Daily Beast).
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 in 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. The Bartender’s Tale wonderfully captures how the world becomes bigger and the past becomes more complex in the last moments of childhood.
About the Author
Ivan Doig is the author of ten previous novels, most recently Work Song, and three works of nonfiction, including his classic first book, This House of Sky. He lives in Seattle.