No one can turn the mundane to magic better than Ivan Doig, and the proof is in THE BARTENDER'S TALE. This is the fourth Doig novel I've read, and it may just be my favorite. Pull up a barstool, order a Select beer, and prepare to be enchanted. Russell "Rusty" Harry is our narrator, an old man who takes us back to the summer of 1960 in the fictional town of Gros Ventre, Montana. Rusty was twelve that summer, and he and his father Tom had been living together in splendid bachelorhood for six years. They ate tomato soup for breakfast, fished for rainbow trout with chicken guts for bait, and kept the customers happy at the Medicine Lodge, where Tom Harry was known as the best bartender in Montana. Twelve going on thirteen is an age of wonder. We're still young enough to enjoy childish pleasures, but old enough to begin snooping around in the adult world, collecting information the grown-ups have withheld from us all our lives. For Rusty, that adolescent excitement is heightened by the arrival of several eye-opening outsiders as the summer progresses. Delano Robertson is a young man obsessed with regional vernacular. He shows up in Gros Ventre with his Gab Lab, ready to record the Missing Voices of the old-timers. His enthusiasm and good nature help him weather the embarrassing moments of initiation into Montana life.Zoe Constantine moves into town from Butte when her parents take over the local diner. She and Rusty become co-conspirators as only twelve-year-olds can do. They spend the summer polishing their acting skills and eavesdropping on the Medicine Lodge patrons through a hidden vent.Most disturbing of all, Proxy Shannon purrs on in from Reno driving a bright red Cadillac, with her grown daughter Francine in tow. Is Francine Tom's love child and Rusty's half-sister? And while we're on the subject of parenthood, why won't Tom tell Rusty who his mother was? Vague answers will no longer satisfy Rusty.Quirky and complex characters, playful dialogue, and small-town shenanigans carry us through that summer of 1960 in the shadow of Glacier National Park. Adjust your gears to allow for a slower pace, and give yourself the time to fall in love. The end of the story is not sad, but I cried when I finished. I had spent almost three weeks with these characters as my companions, and I didn't want to leave them. That's the sorcery of Ivan Doig. He invites us into his imaginary world and makes us feel so welcome that we would gladly trade our real lives for the chance to be one of his characters.