Last Bus To Wisdom by Ivan Doig
(Recorded Books, 2015)
Read by David Aaron Baker
This title is a nominee in the 2016 Audie Awards: Fiction Category
From 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."
I’ve never read Doig before, so I came into this without the predisposition to affection for his characters and community, but it didn’t take long to get on board the bus, as it were. Donal has one of those Forest Gump type journeys, where each of his experiences touches on something iconic from his time and place, and Doig paints each scene with enough verisimilitude to let us believe in each criminal, cowboy, and Kerouac he encounters.
Much as I enjoyed the plot, this isn’t the kind of book that works well in audio for me. It’s too populated with ‘creaky old woman’ and ‘precocious kid’ and ‘people from the old country’ voices, which combine to grate on me over the course of fifteen plus hours. David Aaron Baker does a find job, keeping the pace strong, but it’s a dialogue-heavy story and I’d have preferred a flatter narration or to read this in print.