"In the spirit of The Bartender's Tale, a lively and poignant coming-of-age story about a boy and his great-uncle on a cross-country odyssey. Donal Cameron is being raised by his grandmother, the cook at the legendary Double W ranch in Doig's beloved Two Medicine Country of the Montana Rockies, a landscape that gives full rein to an eleven-year-old's imagination. But when Gram has to have surgery for "female trouble" in the summer of 1951, all she can think to do is to ship Donal off to her sister in faraway Manitowoc, Wisconsin. There Donal is in for a rude surprise: Aunt Kate-bossy, opinionated, argumentative, and tyrannical--is nothing like her sister. She henpecks her good-natured husband, Herman the German (as Donal discovers him to be), and Donal can't seem to get on her good side either. After one contretemps too many, Kate decides to pack him back to the authorities in Montana on the next Greyhound. But to Donal's surprise, he's not traveling solo: Herman the German has decided to fly the coop with him. In the immortal American tradition, the pair light out for the territory together, meeting a classic Doigian ensemble of characters and having rollicking misadventures along the way. Charming, wise, and slyly funny, Last Bus to Wisdom is another treasure of a novel from the best storyteller of the West"--
Donny Cameron, a/k/a Red Chief, is an orphan, and he's
I've seen Doig compared to Wallace Stegner, and LT cross-recommends the two authors. Aside from the Montana connection, I just don't get that. Stegner fails to move me, although I admire his skill with the language; every Doig novel I've read so far has delighted me from beginning to end. None of his characters are ever at the mercy of their circumstances. No matter how rough things get, they are resourceful in meeting the challenges. Good luck and bad luck crop up in about equal measure. Doig also handles the grotesque with a much lighter touch, and his world comes alive in a way Stegner's has never quite done for me.
Things go awry and the great aunt determines to ship Donny back to Montana to a foster home. Happily, though, this is the last straw for his great-aunt's husband who runs away with Donny and their adventures begin.
This is Ivan Doig's last book and has become one of my favorites. Once again he wonderfully captures the flavor of Montana as well as a boy growing into a man. There is lots of humor, a good story and an almost-happy-ending for many.
Slightly extended review:
Traveling by Greyhound from Montana to Wisconsin and back, an eleven-year-old boy has adventures and meets characters who change his life.
It's a road story, a buddy story, a growing-up story, and we've read and seen it all before,