The Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig [ARC]

The year is 1951 and eleven-year-old Donal lives with his grandmother. This summer he’s on his way to stay with his Great-Aunt Kate and her husband Herman while his grandmother recovers from a surgery. Dragging his wicker suitcase, Indian moccasins, and autograph book along for the ride, Donal learns a lot about people and the Greyhound bus system.

51S9z5jS6mL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I really loved this book. Donal is such a sweet narrator and I absolutely loved seeing his relationships with both his grandmother and Herman. Typically I read books with an older narrator, so reading a book from the prospective of an eleven-year-old boy (going on twelve) was different and refreshing. I loved the feeling of innocence that ran throughout the book. I don’t know if this will really make sense, but it made the book feel brighter in some ways. Because he’s so young, Donal has this inherent optimism about him. He’s always coming up with new ideas and ways to get himself and Herman out of sticky situations. Herman also had an air of innocence about him. Thinking about meeting real cowboys and Indians almost transforms him into a little boy as well. Together those two were just a really good combination and it was touching to see their relationship grow. You really did get the sense that they love each other. It was heartbreaking every time Donal thought about what the end of the summer might mean for him and Herman.

There were some quirky things throughout the book that I really enjoyed like the autograph book and the occasional phonetic spelling. It just added character to the story. I found myself really caring about Donal and I’d forget that this book is based in 1951 instead of today! It just feels so real and strangely current. The cast of characters that we meet are interesting. This book is definitely about people rather than a plot. Usually this is something that I’m wary of (I love a good plot) but I ended up not really caring! I was content to just go with the flow of the book and to lose myself in the characters and relationships.

There were a few times throughout the book that the plot felt a little contrived. Sometimes it was unbelievable what bad luck Donal and Herman were having or that they just coincidentally ran into this person again. The ending in particular seemed a little too good to be true. At the same time, that almost adds to the whimsical feeling that seems to run throughout the book and I felt like I could overlook it.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes reading about that time period of American history. The writing was beautiful throughout and I’m just realizing now what a true celebration of America it was.

Overall Rating: 5
Violence: Mild. One bar fight.
Language: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate. A lot of beer drinking in particular, but no underage drinking.

Note: I received this book free from Penguin First to Read in exchange for an honest review.