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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.
Charming, wise, and slyly funny, Last Bus to Wisdom is a last sweet gift from a writer whose books have bestowed untold pleasure on countless readers.
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An Amazon Best Book of August 2015: The final book in Ivan Doig’s career as a great western writer begins with a journey east. 11-year-old Donal Cameron, already orphaned, must leave Montana and the protective skirts of his beloved Gram when she is required to have surgery. Armed only with an autograph book and an active imagination, Donal boards a Greyhound bound for Wisconsin. After a memorable trip that includes a first kiss and a run-in with a sheriff, he arrives to live with his Aunt Kate. It does not go well, and since it is the 1950s Aunt Kate threatens to send him back west to an orphanage. Donal boards a bus again, but now he has gained an unexpected companion: Aunt Kate’s beleaguered husband Herman the German (who intercepts the orphanage papers). Together they head west in a wide open and fun adventure. Donal shows Herman the west. Herman takes on the role of father figure. The boy’s autograph book fills up, and we watch him grow wiser with each signature (and there is another run-in with the sheriff). The apparent joy that Ivan Doig took in crafting this story is infectious—it is a wonderful novel, populated with simple and real characters. Last Bus to Wisdom is a yarn and a pleasure. – Chris Schluep
Ivan Doig was a third-generation Montanan and the author of fifteen previous books, including the bestselling The Bartender’s Tale and The Whistling Season and the classic memoir This House of Sky. He was a National Book Award finalist and received the Wallace Stegner Award, among many other honors. Doig lived in Seattle with his wife, Carol, for many years until his death.
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