Last Bus to Wisdom

Reading Ivan Doig's final novel means accepting that he passed away in April 2015. But the story he left sparkles with typical Doigian language and humor, as Donal Cameron, 11-year-old, red-haired, word-loving Montanan, reluctantly sets off on a summertime adventure in Last Bus to Wisdom.

The adult Donal narrates his summer of 1951, but it's his boy's voice we hear. Donny begs to stay on the Double W, where Gram cooks while he roams the ranch, but Gram is sending him to her sister while she's laid up after surgery. So he boards the Greyhound armed with his good-luck arrowhead, his treasured "memory book" and a vivid imagination. Fellow bus travelers boost his shot at a Guinness World Record autograph collection and distract him from fretting about the relatives in "Wiss-con-sun."

Donny's 1,600 miles to Manitowoc are a warm-up for adventure that awaits. Just two weeks with insufferable Aunt Kate and gentle Uncle Dutch, then Kate shuttles Donny, "the bunkhouse roughneck," back to the station. His surprise seatmate: Uncle Dutch, there to keep him company. "So, we are on the loose, ja?" Dutch and tour guide Donny ride the silver dog west. Their journey gets rocky and includes a stint with welcoming hoboes, but the "punchers of cows" attend the annual Crow Fair, meet Donny's rodeo hero and find a deeply satisfying destination.

Last Bus to Wisdom is a treasure; one suspects that the beloved Ivan Doig--a red-haired boy who lived with his grandmother and grew up to tell stories--chuckled as he plotted to leave his readers a part of himself. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Powered by: Xtenit