Ivan Doig populated his
works with vibrant,
by JUDY GELMAN AND
VICKI LEVY KRUPP
Costco’s suggested Book Club read
provides insight into a selected novel,
as well as an appropriate recipe (or two)
to accompany your own book club’s
uthor Ivan Doig’s Last Bus to
Wisdom begins with 11-year-old
Donny Cameron being raised by
his grandmother on a cattle
ranch in the Montana Rockies. When
Gram has surgery, she puts Donny on a
Greyhound bus to her sister in
Wisconsin. Donny meets colorful charac-
ters along the way who open his eyes to
life in the 1950s American West. But his
tyrannical Aunt Kate can’t abide Donny’s
antics and ships him back home on the
bus. Kate’s husband, Herman the
German, joins him, and the pair embark
on a spirited road trip with adventures—
and misadventures—along the way.
In Last Bus to Wisdom, Doig’s 16th
and final book, Donny meets rodeo riders
and fry cooks, sheriffs and soldiers. The
author, who passed away in 2015, had an
affinity for plain folks, says his widow,
Carol Doig. “I come from the lariat proletariat, the working-class point of view,” he
Gram is the cook at the Double W
Ranch, and Donny is accustomed to her
simple, hearty meals and rules about
food. Without Gram around, Donny
finds himself adrift on his journey.
Finding unappealing food options at the
first stop of his journey, he stocks up on
Mounds bars. Later, he is unable to find
“chicken-fried steak or anything remotely
like it,” and grabs a chocolate milkshake
and a slice of cherry pie, “in direct violation of Gram’s orders.”
Last Bus to Wisdom is perhaps Doig’s
most autobiographical novel. Gram was
based on Doig’s grandmother Bessie
Ringer, who raised him on a Montana
ranch where she was a cook. Bessie’s
meals were as plain as their lives, says
Carol Doig: hearty breakfasts of eggs,
bacon and pancakes; sandwiches eaten
outdoors with jugs of lemonade for
lunch; and simple dinners of fried
chicken or pan-fried steak with lots of
gravy, potatoes and vegetables. She was a
good baker, too, according to Carol, and
kept the kitchen stocked with pie—blue-
berry, huckleberry or “anything that can
be made into a pie.”
Bessie’s talent for working with ingre-
dients at hand was evident in her hand-
written cookie recipe that we located in
the Montana State University Archives.
Although the original recipe called for
dates, Bessie used raisins—making use of
what was available. Her raisin pinwheel
cookies would be a perfect accompaniment to a discussion of Last Bus to
Wisdom, or any of Ivan Doig’s writings.
Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp are
behind the cookbook and website The Book
Club Cookbook ( bookclubcookbook.com).
Last Bus to Wisdom (Item #1259178) is
available now in most Costco warehouses.
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2½ cups raisins
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Cream butter and brown sugar in a
mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Combine flour, salt and baking soda
in another bowl. Combine with
Divide dough into 4 balls. Cover
with plastic wrap. Refrigerate
Bring raisins, sugar and water to a
boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat.
Cook until mixture is thickened,
about 15 minutes. Purée to a
jamlike consistency. Cool. Stir
in the pecans.
Roll the chilled dough balls
between sheets of waxed paper
into 12 x 9-inch rectangles.
Refrigerate 30 minutes.
Remove top paper. Spread each
dough rectangle with a quarter of
the raisin-pecan mixture. Tightly roll
each rectangle, starting with a long
side. Wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for
2 hours, or overnight.
Heat oven to 350 F. Grease 2 baking sheets. Unwrap the logs, and
cut into ¼-inch slices. Place the
slices 1 inch apart on the baking
sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until
edges are golden. Cool 3 minutes.
Transfer pinwheels to a rack to cool.
Makes about 16 dozen (192) cookies.
Recipe courtesy of Bessie Ringer