Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Donal Cameron, 11 years old, lives with his grandmother on a ranch in Montana. When his grandmother needs a serious operation, she sends him to live temporarily with his great aunt Kate in Wisconsin. Life in Wisconsin is difficult, and eventually he's sent back to Montana. That's the set up for the novel about life and the power of imagination. Most of the book takes place on "the dog bus" otherwise known as a Greyhound bus. In part one of the novel, it's 1951 and Donal sets off to Wisconsin armed with an ancient wicker suitcase, a pair of beaded moccasins, $30, a possibly stolen arrowhead, and his autograph book. Donal has a ready imagination and can whip up a story faster than a Kitchenaid whips cream. His interactions with the various passengers run the gamut - often humorous, and sometimes dangerous. He sees the bus trip as a way to garner signatures for his autograph book. Once he reaches his great aunt's home, he has to deal with the trials of learning canasta and staying in his aunt's good graces. He makes a friend of his uncle Herman, who has the talent of being able to name a beer just by tasting it. When Donal is sent back home to Montana, he is joined by his uncle who has had it with Kate's ironfisted control of his life. And that leads into part 2 of the novel which is the story of their journey to see the West. Donal discovers that there's more to Herman than a former cargo ship boilertender on disability. The pair experience the dishonesty of fellow humans as well as their generosity. This book is a quest adventure, as Herman seeks to experience the Wild West, and Donal wants to find a place he can call home. It's also quite humorous. I stayed up till after 1 am to finish this book.
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