Betsy Recommends

  • $28.95
    ISBN: 9781594632020
    Availability: On Our Shelves Now
    Published: Riverhead Books - August 18th, 2015

    As quintessentially American as Huckleberry Fin, Ivan’ Doig’s Last Bus to Wisdom is the saga circa 1950 of a young boy on the lam with an illegal immigrant—a German no less in the post WWII U.S. Chockfull of rollicking humor, blissfully good storytelling and characters so alive on the page they live on in the reader’s mind in technicolor, Doig’s last book is a paean to this country as it existed half a century ago. It also provides as canny a look at American culture, language and morals as Twain’s masterpiece to which it bears some intentional similarities: Boy and outcast journeying across the landscape, separated from the confines of so-called safe society with only one-another to depend on. The difference being that the journey is not by raft but by bus, that quintessentially American mode of transportation in the 1950s. Doig’s tale begins on the Double W Ranch in Montana, when 11-year-old Donal’s grandmother, the ranch cook, falls ill and needs surgery. Gram’s sister lives halfway across the country and although Gram has misgivings, with no money and no options, she ships young Donal off to Wisconsin, by bus and by himself. So his adventures begin. And adventures do abound as he meets scalawags and jailbirds, lovers and losers. People talk on the bus, telling Donal stories of love and death and triumph and grief. Donal himself, more interested in a good tale than the truth, weaves one exuberant yarn after another for the edification of his fellow travelers, all the while asking for autographs from each. In Wisconsin, turns out that Aunt Kate is worse than her sister remembered. Before long Donal hits the road in the company of her German husband—who isn’t in fact her husband and is so smitten by Western lore that all he wants from life is to see some cowboys and some Indians. Which they do as their trail takes them from middle American to the still-raw West—to powwows and rodeos and ranches and hobo camps in a book so purely involving and so much fun to read it’s easy to label an American classic. As is Ivan Doig, the most engaging storyteller the West has ever known. Please join us in celebrating his life and work on Tuesday, August 18, 7pm at The King’s English.


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