Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig - It's a Real Conundrum for Me

Why is this book a conundrum for me?  Well, here's why.  I liked the book quite a bit.  I gave it a 3.25/4.  Solid, right?  And, yet, it took me 15 days to read.  There were definitely moments when I wondered if I would ever finish it.  I mean it took me only 14 days to read Edge of Eternity, book 3 in Follett's Century Trilogy.  And that was almost 1100 pages!  Did I become a slow reader overnight?  Or did it not grab me, despite the fact that I liked it?  I'll throw in one more possible explanation.  I spent much less time on the treadmill and on my own for lunch during the holidays.  That means basically between December 21 and January 3.  That's a lot of days to lose a bunch of my free reading time.  Okay, let's chalk it up to the latter excuse...I mean reason.

On November 25, I posted a blog about the Books, Inc. 4th Tuesday Evening Book Club. And I mentioned that Margie Scott Tucker, the doyenne and illustrious leader of the club, as well as a co-owner of the Books, Inc. chain (I posted an interview with Margie way back on March 2 of last year), said that Last Bus to Wisdom was their unanimous choice as best book of the year.  And here I am.  1st, a synopsis by Goodreads:

Donal Cameron is being raised by his grandmother, the cook at the legendary Double W ranch in Ivan 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, and Donal can’t seem to get on her good side either. After one contretemps too many, Kate  packs him back to the authorities in Montana on the next Greyhound. But as it turns out, Donal isn’t 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.

There's no question that Doig can write.  Here are a couple of his homey (the old definition, not the new one!) sayings:

1.  "We were sitting pretty in the shade in the best seats in the rodeo grounds, comfy as mattress testers..."
2.  "Life can tickle you in the ribs surprisingly when it's not digging its thumb in."

He also lets Jack Kerouac make a guest appearance and introduces us to someone who can eat toast in the shape of states.  He even takes Donal to Manitowoc, Wisconsin.  Why is that significant?  In my line of work (corporate food service), we used to buy Manitowoc ice makers.  I kid you not.  It has to be the same place.

Do you remember the scene in When Harry Met Sally where you see a split screen?  And Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are reading?  And what's Billy Crystal doing?  Yep.  He's reading the last page even though he's only at the beginning.   Why am I telling you this? Because the last line in this book is fantastic!  I absolutely loved it.  If you decide to read Last Bus to Wisdom, do NOT read the last line until you're at the last line.  That's all.

OBITUARY:  I'm sad to report (and I just discovered!) that Ivan Doig passed away only 9 months ago.  He was a very young 76.

JOHN HART NEWS:  John Hart, author of 4 books, including The Last Child and Iron House (both 4/4 for me) is coming out with his next book on May 3.  It's called Redemption Road, and I CAN'T WAIT!  He's also touring in Spring, but he's not giving out any specifics yet.

HARLAN COBEN NEWS:  Harlan Coben's newest book, Tell Me Once, will be hitting the stores on March 22.  I just received an ARC today and will be reading/reviewing it soon.  I don't let dust collect on a Coben.


  1. I've liked some books that didn't "grab" me in such a way that all I could do was think about getting back to them. Maybe that was the reason?

    1. I didn't think of that. But it sounds as good a reason as any. I'll go with your explanation!