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Montana 1948 by Larry Watson

Montana 1948 (1993)

by Larry Watson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,257589,591 (3.89)327
  1. 10
    Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These lyrical, meditative novels brim with bittersweet nostalgia in their evocatively detailed portraits of small American towns in the mid-20th century. Both focus on sensitive teen protagonists struggling to understand shocking tragedies and complex family drama.… (more)
  2. 00
    Hell's Bottom, Colorado by Laura Pritchett (Copperskye)

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» See also 327 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
Why are all the Western writers from Montana? Thomas McGuane. Ivan Doig. A.B. Guthrie. Norman Maclean. Where are the writers from Colorado, or Wyoming?

(Of course, the best living American novelist is from Idaho. But only her first novel is set there. She seems to be an Iowa novelist now.)
  sonofcarc | Aug 30, 2018 |
Tiny quick read that resonates. Reads like YA but the subject matter is over most of their heads. Thought provoking, reads in an hour or 2! ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
This is a story of sibling rivalry, the malleability of the criminal justice system when it's applied to people of color, the internal struggles that we all experience when it feels like the only way to do the right thing is by doing the wrong thing. The spare prose and the slender size of the book make the complex depth of the characters all the more astonishing.

David Hayden is 12 years old in 1948, when his family's housekeeper, a Native American woman named Marie Little Feather, becomes ill and is later found dead in her room at the Hayden house. The truth about what happened to her, and the repercussions of both the original acts and the subsequent reactions, tear apart the Hayden family in painful and irrevocable ways.

Watson has a way with evocative description that made me feel as if I had once visited the small Montana town where the Haydens lived, in the High Plains eastern part of the state. And his rendering of Adult David's thoughts about the events of that long-ago summer made me feel as if I was right there in his head, looking back on my own memories:

... the sound of breaking glass, the odor of rotting vegetables. ... I offer these images in the order in which they occurred, yet the events that produced these sights and sounds are so rapid and tumbled together that any chronological sequence seems wrong. Imagine instead a movie screen divided into boxes and panels, each with its own scene, so that one moment can occur simultaneously with another, so that no action has to fly off in time, so nothing happens before or after, only during. That's the way these images coexist in my memory, like the Sioux picture calendars in which the whole year's event are painted on the same buffalo hide, or like a tapestry with every scene woven into the same cloth, every moment on the same flat plane, the summer of 1948 ...;

Watson effectively uses the first-person perspective of an adult David looking back on this time in his life. While grown-up David occasionally adds some big-picture perspective and hindsight, he's also careful to emphasize his younger self's bafflement at some of the secrets and discussion that he overhears. He calls himself naïve for a boy of 12, and I think he would be in today's culture, but I suspect many 1948-era 12-year-olds would seem rather immature to today's tweens.

I suggested this book to my real-life book club as part of our criminal justice theme. (I first read it in 2015 but didn't review it then and didn't remember enough to feel comfortable leading a discussion without re-reading.) The other books we've read for this theme include [The Green Mile], [Minority Report], [A Study in Emerald], and [Just Mercy]. The Stevenson book is without doubt the most important, but this one just might be my favorite. ( )
6 vote rosalita | Apr 2, 2018 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Jul 29, '10):
-This is a spare, concise story about the emotional tearing apart of a respected family in a very small community in the eastern plains of Montana. Unspeakable accusations are aimed at Dr Frank Hayden, war hero and well-known physician, which have to be investigated by his own brother, Sheriff Wesley Hayden. What he finds isn't pretty, and he's in a quandary: protect his brother or see that justice is served.
-The story is narrated by the sheriff's young son, David, whose knowledge of events is gained mainly through his creative eavesdropping on the adult conversations.
-This is a shortish novel, but actually reads even quicker. I liked it, but wish I knew Frank and Wesley's intimate thoughts, of course not possible in the first person approach. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Sep 21, 2017 |
Lately it seems books are getting longer and longer. Most writers are snared into writing series rather than stand-alone books, so I think it takes even more skill than usual to hone a short, tight book without a lot of extraneous detail or background. Watson delivers. By today’s standards this book is a novella, but it’s pretty intense and while it doesn’t require close reading (the plot’s not that complex) it will keep you engaged and delighted with the writing.

It isn’t a new story. Things not being what they seem in a small town has been done before. So has testing family loyalty, cover-ups and murder. This story stands out because of its lack of baggage. Watson gets right to it and keeps the pressure on until there’s a resolution. It isn’t a satisfying one for anyone involved, but it works. It isn’t a surprise once Frank starts throwing the canning jars around though. ( )
  Bookmarque | Nov 22, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Larry Watsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bridges, BeauReadermain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Helmond, Joop vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huddle, DavidAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Péguillan, BertrandTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenman, JaneEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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From the summer of my twelfth year I carry a series of images more vivid and lasting than any others of my boyhood and indelible beyond all attempts the years make to erase or fade them . . . .
. . . I realized that these strange, unthought-of connections -- sex and death, lust and violence, desire and degradation -- are there, there, deep in even a good heart’s chambers. (p. 82)
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Book description
A young Sioux woman tossing with fever on a cot; a father begging his wife for help; a mother standing uncertainly in her kitchen with a 12-gauge shotgun: from these fragments of memory, evoked by the narrator as the novel opens, Watson builds a simple but powerful tale. It is Montana in 1948, and young David Hayden's father, Wesley, is sheriff of their small town--a position he inherited from his domineering father. Wesley is overshadowed by his older brother, Frank, a war hero who is now the town doctor. When Marie, the Sioux woman who works for the Haydens, fall ill, she adamantly resists being examined by Frank. Some probing reveals that Frank has been molesting the Indian women in his care. Wesley's dilemma--should he turn in his own brother?--is intensified when Marie is found dead and David confesses that he saw his uncle near the house before she died.
Montana, 1948; and the events of one cataclysmic summer will for ever alter twelve-year-old David Hayden's view of his family. His father, a small-town sheriff; his remarkably strong-willed mother; his uncle, a war hero and respected doctor; and the family's Sioux house-keeper, Marie Little Soldier, whose shocking revelations form the heart of the story.

As their memories unravel before young David's eyes, he comes to learn that the truth is not what you believe it to be. That power is abused. And sometimes you have to choose between loyalty and justice....

Brilliantly evoking both time and place, Larry Watson recounts David's age-old tale childhood lost and adulthood gained.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671507036, Paperback)

The events of that small-town summer forever alter David Hayden's view of his family: his self-effacing father, a sheriff who never wears his badge; his clear sighted mother; his uncle, a charming war hero and respected doctor; and the Hayden's lively, statuesque Sioux housekeeper, Marie Little Soldier, whose revelations are at the heart of the story. It is a tale of love and courage, of power abused, and of the terrible choice between family loyalty and justice.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:38 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A series of events in a small western town changes the lives of David Hayden, his sheriff father, his mother, and their Sioux housekeeper, as they discover the truth about family loyalty.

» see all 6 descriptions

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