The Bartender's Tale
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

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

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  2,352 ratings  ·  597 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...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published August 21st 2012 by Riverhead Hardcover (first published August 8th 2012)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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...more
Darlene Matule

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...more
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
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...more
Julie Ekkers
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
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
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
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...more
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...more

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...more
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
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...more
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
Tracy Murphy
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
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...more
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.
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,...more
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...more
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...more
Ivan Doig is a marvelous storyteller, and he's in top form here. It's a coming-of-age story of Rusty the (mostly) 12-year-old son of Tom Harry, the world's best bartender. It's set in 1960 in a very small Montana town, where the establishment's clientele includes townsfolk, tourists passing through, sheepherders, and airmen who operate the Minuteman missile site nearby. Del from Washington DC turns up, collecting local history and dialects, and persuades Tom to attend a reunion of people involve...more
I just love Ivan Doig. If I were 30 years older ....

The Bartender's Tale rambled a bit ... it felt like summer, in a way ... meandering around. But I enjoy his voice so much that it didn't bother me. The characters are great, as always ... Tom Harry, Rusty, and Zoe, in particular. At one point, Tom and Rusty are photographed together and I actually wondered to myself if the photograph was included in the book before I realized ... These are not real people. Oops.
The climax was fantastic and had...more
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.
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...more
Connie Mayo
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
I have always loved Ivan Doig's stories and he has a lot of them. This one is relatively new and is just as engaging, interesting, and enjoyable as the others. It's amazing that he can keep writing fresh, wonderful characters and stories after all these years. He's an amazing writer. I've had the pleasure of hearing him read excerpts from one of his books at a local bookstore and he's an engaging, and funny person in real life, too.

I listened to this book on CD and the man narrating, David Aaron...more
Rusty was "an accident between the sheets" who lives with his aunt until he is six and his father swoops down from Montana to take him off to live over his saloon in Gros Ventre called "The Medicine Lodge." In 1960, Rusty's life changes dramatically. Proxy, a taxi dancer, Rusty's dad knew long ago, and her daughter Francine arrive at the Medicine Lodge. Rusty struggles to decipher the adults around him and comes to terms with the oddities of adult behavior. The pace of the book is slow and delib...more
This was a book I got through the giveaway.

What I liked about the book was it was told through the eyes of a young boy coming of age. A kid who with an active imagination and the insecurities of a twelve year old also had the savvy to realize his life was not so bad.

This book had a variety of colorful and believable characters. It did not glamorize the life of any of the characters and showed the avenues people will take to survive and protect those they love, including themselves, whether it...more
Steve Pifer
Really enjoyed listening to this book during my long commute to and from work. The story of a boy and his father, a nuclear family in a time when such arrangements were rare and met with skepticism and probably judgement from our family value nation. The protagonist is the 12 year old boy who is reunited with his father afer living with his aunt for the first 8 or 9 years, give or take. The story is told as a memory, by the now grown child, so the level of maturity and stability would shadow tha...more
Juliet Wilson
"My father was the best bartender who ever lived."


What a breath of fresh air! I confess I've never heard of Ivan Doig, even though he's a prolific author and lives, oddly enough, very near to me. I only picked up this novel because it was on display at my local library, and even though its not what I would typically be drawn to, or even pick up, I'm really glad I did.

The Bartender's Tale is a coming of age story about young Russell (Rusty) Harry and the first thirteen years of his life in histo...more
Marisa Gonzalez
A coming of age story about a boy abandoned by his mom who is raised by his dad in a small town bar in 1960. Between the timeline, location and family dynamic this could have been a great story but it sort of fell flat. There are times in the story where the main character thinks worse case scenarios regarding the events that take place. If the author would have gone with one of those scenarios it would have been a much more interesting book.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Evel Knievel Days
  • American Boy
  • Winter Wheat
  • Where Rivers Change Direction
  • Boleto
  • Claiming Ground
  • Benediction (Plainsong, #3)
  • Border Songs
  • White Dog Fell from the Sky
  • The Book of Jonas
  • The Odds: A Love Story
  • The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds
  • Brewster
  • Driving on the Rim
  • The Big Rock Candy Mountain
  • In the Kingdom of Men
  • The Wrong Man (Jason Kolarich, #3)
  • News from Heaven: The Bakerton Stories
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...
The Whistling Season Dancing at the Rascal Fair This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind English Creek Work Song

Share This Book