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The Bartender's Tale (Two Medicine Country #10)

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,176 Ratings  ·  881 Reviews
From a great American storyteller, a one-of-a-kind father and his precocious son,rocked by a time of change.

Tom Harry has a streak of frost in his black pompadour and a venerable bar called The MedicineLodge, the chief watering hole and last refuge of thetown of Gros Ventre, in northern Montana. Tom alsohas a son named Rusty, an “accident between thesheets” whose mother
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published August 21st 2012 by Riverhead Books (first published August 8th 2012)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
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 year
Darlene Matule
Feb 10, 2013 Darlene Matule rated it it was amazing

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 reads.

Then 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
Jul 20, 2012 Cynthia rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Dec 16, 2012 Barbara rated it it was ok
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 thi ...more
Book Concierge
From the book jacket: Tom Harry has 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, 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 beatn ...more
Jun 14, 2015 Bdalton rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
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 family.

We 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 bartende
Julie Ekkers
Oct 09, 2012 Julie Ekkers rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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 i ...more
Sep 25, 2012 Jackie rated it really liked it
Picking up an Ivan Doig novel is like placing yourself under a spell. You don't even want to put the book down between readings for fear of breaking the spell that holds you entranced. Mr. Doig is an incredible master of the written word. And he almost never disappoints.

This one is definitely in the spell-binding category, at least for me. I began keeping track of passages that I wanted to remember and take note of. And finally gave up - there were just too many. His books are never ones to rac
Sep 08, 2012 Linda rated it liked it
I loved "The Whistling Season" by this author and was anxious to read this new book. Tom Harry, bartender at Gros Ventre, a blink and you miss it kind of town, retreives his son, Rusty, age 6 from his sister's house in Arizona, who has been raising Rusty since birth. Tom is a likable character and the Medicine Lodge is a popular bar. Rusty is happy to leave his aunt's house and his irritating nephews who constantly pick on him. Rusty loves the bar where Tom spends most of his time and loves the ...more
Trisha Smith
See my review and others here: http://onceuponatime-bookblog.blogspo...

I have to admit that it if wasn't for book club the month I probably never would have picked up this book. This isn't normally the type of book I usually read. I wasn't expecting to love it (or even like it all that much), but love it I did and it consumed my thoughts for the last couple of weeks. Even when I wasn't reading it, I would find myself constantly thinking about the characters as I went through my day. This is the
Dec 08, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it
The Bartender's Tale by Ivan Doig is rich and comfortable. As typical with Doig, the characters are so real that you wish you could meet them. Doig especially appeals to readers who grew up in the 50ies and 60ies in working class families. Tom Harry, bartender extraordinaire, struggles to raise his son, Rusty, and give him a better life. Tom is lacking in elocution, although he is, ironically, followed around by an expert in locution! However, the lack of communication between father and son giv ...more
Oct 18, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
My review from the Missoula Independent:

If Montana literature were a religion, Ivan Doig might be its pope. The author of 13 venerated novels, he has written a trilogy about Montana's statehood, a turn-of-the-century Butte novel called Work Song, and This House of Sky, a memoir of his boyhood growing up in a raw and magnificent landscape. Doig takes a different tack in The Bartender's Tale. It's a drama set in what he calls "the Two Medicine country," and particularly in a small town called Gros
Sep 06, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it

A good read most definitely. It wasn't faced paced though. Neither was life during the fifties and 1960 when the bulk of the book took place in the mid west. This was my first Doig and I'm confident it won't be my last, a copy of the Whistling Season is on my to do list.
What we have here is a very knowledgeable and experienced writer who handles the characters of man and son in a way that makes you long for the old times before everything went all Facebook on us and Reality TV took over using
Nov 30, 2012 Dale rated it it was amazing
Ivan Doig has again told a wonderful story. He is a great storyteller. The characters in the Bartender's Tale are believable and he has great characters throughout the story. Some are quirky characters just like real people in small town Montana or small town USA. I recommend this story by Ivan Doig or any of his other books. He does an amazing amount of research and has lived some the stories he tells. I haven't spoken with Ivan Doig for several years, but he has a winner here. I love the kids ...more
Aug 11, 2012 John rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A Magnificent Coming of Age Tale from Master Storyteller Ivan Doig

Narrated in first person by an adult Russell “Rusty” Hardy looking back at the summer of 1960, when he is twelve years old, “The Bartender’s Tale” is an engrossing coming-of-age tale by someone who is both a superb storyteller and writer, Montana native Ivan Doig; this coming-of-age saga may be the most engrossing I have read in years. Doig weaves a most compelling and captivating story centered on the burgeoning warm relationship
Tracy Murphy
Apr 04, 2013 Tracy Murphy rated it it was amazing
This is a classic coming of age story and family saga, with the narrator being the now adult son of Tom Harry, and bearing a little similarity to Doig himself in "The House of Sky" (my other forever favorite book). Every single character in this book I absolutely love and want to sit at the bar with for a long while, while Tom Harry pours me another "Shellac". Part of the reason I love this book is the nostalgia it dredges up for me...tagging along with my Dad to various bars as a kid (back when ...more
Feb 10, 2013 Doug rated it it was ok
The book starts off very slow and continues that way throughout the book. The slowness does build to a sweet story of a summer shared by two twelve year old growing up in Montana one summer in 1960, but it is sorta boring. The author occasionally throws in a little bit of wit with a few interesting observations and pieces of dialog that might be something your grandfather would say as the story slowly, very slowly plows along:
"It takes a good storyteller to turn eyes into ears."
"It's French and
Connie Mayo
Jun 06, 2013 Connie Mayo rated it really liked it
Reading an Ivan Doig book is like a walk down a bucolic country road. Some days you may be in the mood for a quick drive on the freeway, but if you are in the mood to take your time with a book, I recommend The Bartender's Tale. Which is not to say it is boring at all. It just takes it's time getting to the tension of the story. The arc of this story goes against everything I've heard agents and publishers are looking for in books these days - high concept! tension that hits you on the first pag ...more
Sep 09, 2012 Eyvonne rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I rec. this book via a GoodReads giveaway & loved it! I've read one other book ("The Whistling Season") by Ivan Doig and loved it as well. At this point, I've decided I have to read all his novels!

How refreshing it was for me to read "The Bartender's Tale"! Ivan Doig is a wonderful story teller. I did not want this book to end. There is nothing predictable about this novel. The characters in this book are so well presented and developed that I felt as if I knew them personally. And as the s
Sep 23, 2014 Kirstin rated it liked it
If you haven’t read any other books by Ivan Doig I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one but for those of you who have read all his other books reading this one is like spending time with an old friend. I was a little worried for a bit that he was heading down the path that he did withRide With Me Mariah Montana but he pulled it back and kept the story telling to what was needed to drive the plot instead of letting the stories take over.
Oct 12, 2014 Judy rated it it was amazing
My friend Pat recommended this book and as usual she knows a good book when she sees one. I have never read anything by Doig before, but will look for another one of his books soon.
Tom Harry and his son Rusty are two of the most enjoyable characters I have read about in a long time. The story is a bit like a Mark Twain story mixed with a bit of Harper Lee. Tom is a wonderful father who runs/owns the Medicine Lodge Bar is a very small town in Montana. He rescues Rusty from a terrible life in Phoe
May 11, 2014 Joanne rated it it was amazing
What a terrific novel this is. I loved the characters and the sense of 1960's Montana. The relationship between Rusty and his dad Tom was so poignant, the devious Francine and her mother Proxy, the Gab Lab man Del: all were fascinating and well-drawn portraits, but it was just such a lovely portrayal of time and place. A really excellent book all the way around.
Apr 05, 2014 Lynn rated it it was amazing
another winner for Doig. The story of a young boy who was temporarily "abandoned" by his father to live with his father's sister; dad owned a bar and didn't think he could properly raise his son in this atmosphere since mom disappeared shortly after the child's birth.

when dad picks up his son and takes him back to Montana, the fun starts. I loved how Doig portrayed the dad - dad's simple, easy way of dealing and talking with his son. very down-to-earth dad, who tries to teach his son about life,
Dick Reynolds
Jun 17, 2015 Dick Reynolds rated it it was amazing
This book was published before Ivan Doig passed away this year on April 9th. The years in which the story takes place is the mid-to-late 1950s and the setting is a familiar one, the fictitious town of Gros Ventre featured in many of Doig’s earlier novels. From my own reckoning, the territory around Gros Ventre is like that of Chouteau, Montana, situated north of Helena and east of the Flathead National Forest, sheepherder country among other uses.
The title bartender is Tom Harry who decides t
Nov 02, 2014 Sandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ivan Doig makes the Great Plains come alive. The story does not take you on a thrill ride, but rather the characters take you on a slow meander through their lives as you get to know them. Tom Harry, the bartender of few words in the black pompadour with the white streak, runs the Medicine Lodge in Gros Ventre, Montana. Rusty, his son who was an "accident between the sheets," comes to live at the Medicine Lodge when he turns 6 and he and his Pop establish a comfortable relationship with each oth ...more
Aug 12, 2013 Dianne rated it really liked it
I love the books of Ivan Doig, so I was predisposed to enjoy this one. It starts in a low-key, introspective manner as we meet Rusty, 6 years old, living with his aunt and uncle and two horrible cousins in Arizona. He's been told his mother left him and his father when Rusty was a baby. He has occasional vacation trips with his father, but one fine day, with no warning, his father, Tom, arrives to take him home for good.

Home is Gros Ventre, Montana, where Tom is proprietor of the Medicine Lodge
Oct 09, 2012 Beth rated it really liked it
The Bartender’s Tale is a coming of age story written in the form of a fictional memoir. The author, Ivan Doig, writes beautifully in his characteristic lyrical style, but as an unsentimental poet. His narrator- the young son, Rusty - tells his story as he lives it, without embellishment. Life is what it is. “You’ve got to play the hand you’ve been dealt.”

The novel has a cast of colorful characters and speaks of life in small town Montana between prohibition and the 1960’s. Doig takes a look at
Sep 22, 2012 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: early-reviewer
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

I love this author's writing. It is clear that he crafted his characters with great affection and his settings with a deep respect for their history and power.

Rusty is 12 years old; a sweet boy who wants to do the right thing. At first, his desire to please his father, Tom, is in order to not be returned to the home of his unwelcoming aunt and cousins. But, as he observes Tom, it is clear that he acts out of love and respect for Tom and th
Dec 14, 2015 Mark rated it liked it
This is probably the best book I gave three stars to this year. I can't really find anything bad to say about it. Ivan Doig adopts the pitch-perfect voice of a narrator/protagonist who reminisces about life as a twelve year old with his bartender father in 1960 small town Montana. Characters are well drawn out, and the story oozes charm. My only issue is that I've read this type of story a few too many times in my life. The author certainly accomplishes everything he intended in telling this sto ...more
Diane C.
Jul 14, 2014 Diane C. rated it really liked it
Rusty Harry, son of bar owner Tom Harry in a small Montana town in the 1960's, lived with his paternal aunt until he was 6, then his dad came to get him and raise him, turning out to be a wonderful parent.

Life in this small town, even owning a bar, is quiet and relatively routine until the summer of 1960, when Rusty makes a good friend in schoolmate Zoe, meets an Alan Lomax style listener/recorder named Delano who arrives in town to interview people employed by the WPA building dams nearby in t
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Ivan Doig was born in White Sulphur Springs, Montana to a family of homesteaders and ranch hands. After the death of his mother Berneta, on his sixth birthday, he was raised by his father Charles "Charlie" Doig and his grandmother Elizabeth "Bessie" Ringer. After several stints on ranches, they moved to Dupuyer, Pondera County, Montana in the north to herd sheep close to the Rocky Mountain Front.

More about Ivan Doig...

Other Books in the Series

Two Medicine Country (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • English Creek
  • Dancing at the Rascal Fair
  • Ride With Me, Mariah Montana
  • Bucking the Sun
  • Mountain Time
  • Prairie Nocturne
  • The Whistling Season
  • The Eleventh Man
  • Work Song
  • Sweet Thunder

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