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'MONTANA, 1948' (original 1993; edition 1996)


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Montana 1948 by Larry Watson chronicles the events in a small Montana town, and in particular, the effects these events had on one family. As told through the eyes of the only child in the family, David, we learn of his quiet, inward looking father, sheriff of the town and his morally upright but loving mother. They are all part of the Hayden family who were a power source in the county. People looked up to and respected the Haydens, his rancher grandfather who had spent previous years himself as the sheriff, his war hero uncle, the local doctor and his father. Another important character was Marie Little Soldier, the Sioux housekeeper, and the catalyst of the events that were to change this family forever.

This is a story that I felt viscerally, the author writes simply and from the heart. As the plot develops I felt David’s loss of innocence as his small town life of fishing, riding and hunting changes when racism, betrayal and violence come into it. His own identity and strong family ties are shattered. He is telling the story as an adult, looking back upon that summer, but the reader intimately feels the child’s confusion and anguish.

Larry Watson’s writing reminds me in many ways of both Ivan Doig and Kent Haruf. These men write with a western viewpoint. Their writing is rich, meditative and stripped of any extra unneeded words, cutting right into the soul of the story. Montana 1948 tells a powerful, candid and emotionally charged story in under 200 pages. I admire both the writing and the story. ( )
3 vote DeltaQueen50 | Dec 10, 2014 |
This brief story of the Hayden family, told retrospectively from the POV of then-12-year-old David, is deceptively simple. The characters are not richly wrought but I have clear images of them in my mind. I can hear their voices and visualize the way they carry their bodies. In [Montana 1948], David's sheriff father discovers that his only brother has been molesting Indian women via his power as a physician. As the family grapples with this knowledge and the subsequent decisions they must make, David's coming of age and his discovery of the complexities of history is both figure and ground. The novel turns the myth of the great Wild West on its end, exposing the uncomfortable truths that continue to be effectively buried by white sentimentality and arrogance. It does so without rancor or apology. I appreciate Watson's simple story-telling voice but I also wish he had not felt compelled to tie the story up so neatly in an epilogue. He could have let the story end as it did. ( )
  EBT1002 | Dec 8, 2014 |
I enjoyed reading this short book set in Montana. As many of you know, I spent the summers of my youth in central Idaho living with a ranching family, friends to my family. I was there from about 1950 to 1958, I guess, so the time was similar to that described by Larry Watson. I remember the weight certain families had in the small community; families who's name was known by all, and talked about, no doubt. Of course, I was a child and only there for a few weeks so I did not get in on the gossip.

Watson's book is abut such a family, and in such a small community. He explores the very human frailties we all know of and how they play out when there are scandals and tragedies in a small community and how family can be torn apart, and how the innocent can be hurt, and the guilty seemingly get off "Scott free" and yet, not really. His prose is conversational, and clean, although there were times when his descriptions sat down in the middle of the story and would not allow you to follow the action quickly. He seems to have said "the action is not the important stuff, it is the feel of the place that you want".

I liked it. I recommend it particularly to those of us who love to read of the west, and how the land and the folks were when times were more simple, and life was more elemental. ( )
  maggie1944 | Dec 4, 2014 |
A very well done story that seems much larger than the couple of hours it took me to read. This story calls to mind The Thornbirds and We Were The Mulvaneys, and in a good way. Some events effect an entire family as much as the family members directly involved in a situation. While it would be nice to read about GOOD THINGS accomplishing this, it was still nice to read another sad story about a family changed forever by a moment.

This book adds another silly, melodramatic exclamation to my vernacular, the second this week. "Don't blame Montana!" Combined with "Kung Fu Treachery" from Black Dynamite, I'm having quite the week! ( )
  drhapgood | Jul 27, 2014 |
This novella is packed with complexities. It is a coming-of-age tale about the importance of integrity and how much courage it sometimes takes to exercise it in the face of family and societal pressures. It is an excellent book to use for book clubs because there are so many things to discuss, especially how society has or has not changed so many of its beliefs and how they shape us all. ( )
  whymaggiemay | May 28, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Larry Watsonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bridges, BeauReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Helmond, Joop vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Huddle, DavidAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Péguillan, BertrandTraductionsecondary 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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:05 -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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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