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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Nominee, Fiction, 2013

Time and again, Ivan Doig has proven himself to be a treasure of American letters. Critical darlings and New York Times best sellers, his novels target the heart of the human experience and never miss the mark.

The Bartender' s Tale stars Tom Harry and his 12-year-old son, Rusty, who live alone and run a bar in a small Montana town in the early 1960s. Their lives are upended when Proxy, a woman from Tom's past, and her beatnik daughter, Francine, breeze into town. 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.

As Rusty struggles to decipher the oddities of adult behavior and the mysteries build toward a reckoning, Ivan Doig wonderfully captures how the world becomes bigger and the past becomes more complex in the last moments of childhood.

©2012 Ivan Doig (P)2012 Recorded Books

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Mark
  • Waltham, MA, United States
  • 04-07-13

a sweet, old fashioned coming-of-age story

Most of this story happens in the summer of 1960. Tom Harry is a bartender in rural Montana, and lives with his son, Rusty. Rusty is twelve years old, and loves his life with his single father, living above their bar. During that summer, twelve year-old Zoe moves to town and befriends Rusty. Twenty-something Delano also moves to town working on an Americana oral history project and connects with Rusty and his father. This is a sweet, slow-moving story, much like life in that small town at that time. I enjoyed being part of that time and seeing the world from Rusty's innocent eyes. The reader was great, with distinctive voices for all the main characters. I really enjoyed listening to this story, and rate the story as a 4+. My only criticisms - it felt a bit similar to other rural coming-of-age stories, and lacked any sharp edges to take it out of that comfortable idyllic world. That said, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. One more comment - the book promo talks about Proxy and his daughter coming into the lives of Tom and Rusty. I was waiting for that to happen, thinking it would be central to this story. It does not occur until the book is 3/4 over. Rusty's relationship to his father and his bar, and his friendship with Zoe are much more central to this book.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • B.J.
  • Minneapolis, MN, United States
  • 03-08-13

If you love a good story ...

this is your book. Ivan Doig has been called "The New Wallace Stegner" for a long time. I love Wallace Stegner, so I take that comparison seriously. There have always been similar threads, but never has the quality of the writing been as close to - or better than Stegner's - than in this book.

Doig has a way of writing about small events and everyday people that makes even an annual fishing event sound interesting. (Perfect example is a "bit" he wrote about looking for ticks. I never would have guessed there was a story in that. There is when it's in Doig's hands and it's funny.) I also think there's an element of autobiography in this one with Rusty, the young narrator.

I love the crisp writing, the use of local jargon - as he calls it "lingua America" - and the bits of history woven in for good measure. I love the 87 ways he can allude to sex without ever getting into the nitty gritty of it. But I especially love his characters - so real you can almost reach out and touch them.

There's a special feeling you get with certain books. The characters come and live at your house while you're listening. Rusty and his dad have been at my house the last few days and I miss them terribly now that they're gone. Very few books measure up to this in terms of pure, good writing. It's such a joy.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

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Such an enjoyable listen

An engaging, well-written small town coming-of-age story taking place in 1960. I just love it when a great story is combined with a great narrator, this is why I love audiobooks.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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I just don't want this book to end!

Would you listen to The Bartender's Tale again? Why?

Yes, I would listen again, and again, and again. I'm not sure which I enjoyed more, the narrator or the story, but both entwine to make this one of the nicest stories I've ever listen to. David Aaron Baker nailed the accents and innuendos of each character, and their are a lot of them.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The story is wrapped around the adolescent years of a Midwestern boy in the sixties.. His life is not all that unusual, but unfolds in a way that you don't want to miss a single adventure.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The Bartender's Tale; straight up with a twist!

Any additional comments?

Read or listen to this story! I read it based on the publisher's comments: "Time and again, Ivan Doig has proven himself to be a treasure of American letters. Critical darlings and New York Times best sellers, his novels target the heart of the human experience and never miss the mark." Absolutely true!!!

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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I loved being read to!

I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook. The narrator was perfect. I felt like he was personally telling me a story. I have listened to one other book by Ivan Doig and hope to listen to many more. The story was poignant, quirky and made me giggle out loud many times. Such a "feel good" book.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Why do good books have to end?

I have read many of Ivan Doig's books because I love Montana and the way Doig tells a story with characters that I feel like I have met sometime in my life. Some of his books are more successful than others; The Bartender's Tale is one of his best. Once again, Doig spins a tale of a simple life with complex flavors and, again, I didn't want this book to stop. David Baker is excellent in catching the sounds and pauses of the characters so well that I was immersed in that life and how the story unfolded. This is a sweet story, a story about a wonderful young man and his Dad, his best girl friend and all the other gems and crazies that one might come across in a bar in Montana. Ivan Doig, thank you for this gift.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • ONTARIO, CA, United States
  • 05-14-13

Outstanding Narration Brings Everything to Life

David Aaron Baker reads this story extremely well. As well written as it is, and how well each character is developed, I doubt I would've been nearly as interested without Baker's telling, his great and distinct voices (with the exception of one ridiculously Mickey Mouse sounding voice), and the heart that lies behind everything he says. Ivan Doig describes each character and surrounding so well it's easy to imagine the town, and the people. The story itself isn't particularly memorable, but I still cared about the characters.

Overall, worth a listen, just not something that'll stick with you very long after.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic story!

This story really gave me a special feeling, having myself grown up in a small town in Montana at about the same time, the remeninces were in full. High Definition. The narathon was outstanding.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathy
  • Davis, CA, United States
  • 07-19-13

I just love Doig's tales!

I always know I am in for a great yarn when I listen to an Ivan Doig book. This one centers on the relationship between a father and son living in rural Montana in the 1960's. The narrator did an excellent job of capturing the western feel of the book.

While I certainly did enjoy this story, it was not as good as my favorite Doig book, "Dancing at the Rascal Fair". This book, in comparison, did not have the compelling characters and emotional impact that "Rascal Faire" did for me. None the less, "The Bartender's Tale" is a good, solid coming of age story and much more.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Jbug
  • Atlanta, GA
  • 03-19-13

Fabulous listen. Loved the Story and Characters

My father recently passed away and Tom Harry (the bartender) reminded me so much of my dad with his sayings and philosophy — don't do anything stupid. The narrator is terrific. The writing style makes this a very easy listen. Highly recommend.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful