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Let Him Go: A Novel Hardcover – September 3, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Milkweed Editions; First Edition edition (September 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1571311025
  • ISBN-13: 978-1571311023
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A consummate chronicler of the American West, Watson (American Boy) sets his slyly suspenseful, highly engaging new novel in the early 1950s in rural Dalton, N.Dak., where George Blackledge, a retired sheriff, returns home to find his wife Margaret packing to leave—with or without him. She's embarking on an honorable, valiant journey to reclaim her young grandson Jimmy from Lorna, the widow of her tragically deceased son, and Lorna's sketchy new husband, Donnie Weboy. Margaret, who witnessed but didn't immediately act on the couple's cruelty toward Jimmy, is sure that he deserves better than Donnie and Lorna. George joins his determined wife for the long road trip across the Dakota Badlands into Montana, where they become embroiled in the violence of the Weboy clan, beginning with tense negotiations with Donnie's foul-mouthed father, who compares Margaret's "pretty bird" appearance to the "hard bark" of George's. Margaret wants desperately for Lorna to return with them to Dalton with Jimmy in tow, but the ever-intimidating Weboys and their nasty extended family network have other plans for everyone involved and put up a bloody fight—until George turns the tables in the nail-biting denouement. Known for crisp images, resonant backdrops, and sharp characterizations drawn without flashy over-accessorizing, Watson's latest traces the desperate lengths families will go to in order to protect their own. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit. (Sept.)

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Watson returns to North Dakota, setting of his Sundown, Yellow Moon (2007), and like that brooding tale of people trapped by the past, this latest novel concerns an aging couple, George and Margaret Blackledge, trying but failing to deal with loss, in their case, the death of their only son, who was thrown from a horse. In September 1951, years after the accident, Margaret decides it’s time to act and vows to travel to Bentrock, Montana—with or without George—and retrieve her only grandson from her former daughter-in-law, Lorna, who has remarried and cut off all contact with the Blackledges. Reluctantly, George joins his determined wife (who, until this journey, has never stayed in a hotel for two nights in a row) on what will quickly become a transformative road trip. Their mission proves more complicated than they’d imagined, as Lorna has become a virtual hostage in the home of her new in-laws. The violent finale has the doomed feel of country noir, but what emerges most forcefully is the profound, if largely unspoken, love shared by a taciturn man and woman who dig deeply into long-dormant reservoirs of grit (“George Blackledge, despite his white-whiskered pallor . . . still has eyes that burn with a wild, blue desperation”) for one last attempt to take on an unbending world. Superb storytelling from a writer who continues to find a special kind of melancholy poetry in the unforgiving landscape of the mountain states. --Bill Ott

More About the Author

Larry Watson was born in 1947 in Rugby, North Dakota. He grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota, and was educated in its public schools. Larry married his high school sweetheart, Susan Gibbons, in 1967. He received his BA and MA from the University of North Dakota, his PhD from the creative writing program at the University of Utah, and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Ripon College. Watson has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1987, 2004) and the Wisconsin Arts Board.

Larry Watson is the author of the novels IN A DARK TIME; MONTANA 1948; WHITE CROSSES; LAURA; ORCHARD; SUNDOWN, YELLOW MOON; and AMERICAN BOY; the fiction collection JUSTICE; and the chapbook of poetry LEAVING DAKOTA. Watson's fiction has been published in ten foreign editions, and has received prizes and awards from Milkweed Press, Friends of American Writers, Mountain and Plains Booksellers Association, New York Public Library, Wisconsin Library Association, Critics' Choice, and The High Plains Book Award. MONTANA 1948 was nominated for the first IMPAC Dublin international literary prize. The movie rights to MONTANA 1948 and JUSTICE have been sold to Echo Lake Productions and WHITE CROSSES and ORCHARD have been optioned for film.

He has published short stories and poems in Gettysburg Review, New England Review, North American Review, Mississippi Review, and other journals and quarterlies. His essays and book reviews have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and other periodicals. His work has also been anthologized in Essays for Contemporary Culture, Imagining Home, Off the Beaten Path, Baseball and the Game of Life, The Most Wonderful Books, These United States, Writing America, and West of 98.

Watson taught writing and literature at the University of Wisconsin/​Stevens Point for 25 years before joining the faculty at Marquette University in 2003 as a Visiting Professor. He has also taught and participated in writers conferences in Colorado, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, St. Malo and Caen, France.

Larry's latest novel, AMERICAN BOY, was published by Milkweed Editions in 2011. He and Susan live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They have two daughters, Elly and Amy, and two grandchildren, Theodore and Abigail.

Customer Reviews

Not a happy story, but excellent character development and very enjoyable style.
Faraday Gauss
Gritty, bleak and oppressing even, at times, this is the kind of story that makes me think and appreciate the good in life.
Nicola Mansfield
This is certainly one of the ten best books I've read this year, and one of my favorite books ever.
Bonnie Brody

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes you read a book so good that it leaves you breathless and not wanting to come up for air. That is the case with Larry Watson's, Let Him Go: A Novel. Written in language rich, poetic and spare like the land it takes place in, it is a story that will leave you wanting to read whatever else this author has written.

The year is 1951. Margaret and George Blackledge have lost their son in a horse accident. He was thrown off the horse and his neck was broken. He left a wife, Lorna, and a son named Jimmy. For a while, Lorna and Jimmy lived with the Blackledges but Lorna has since remarried Donnie Weboy, a troublemaker and a poor stepfather. Margaret has witnessed Donnie treating Jimmie abusively and she has never forgotten this. Lorna, herself, did not come to Jimmy's aid in this situation.

George and Margaret live in Dalton, North Dakota not far from the Badlands. Margaret gets it into her head that with or without George she is going to find Lorna and ask her to give them custody of Jimmy. Margaret packs most of their belongings in their car and they travel to Montana where Lorna now lives and plans to ask for the child. George decides to go with her. "I'd loaded up damn near everything in the house. Everything we'd need to live out of the car for months, if need be. And that was the vision I had - George and me on the road, chasing Donnie, Lorna, and Jimmy, traipsing all over the west. We'd have ourselves a real adventure. By the time we'd caught them we'd have earned Jimmy, as if there is such a thing..." What happens from then on is a story that grips the reader and never lets go.

Watson's writing is magical.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Pamela A. Poddany VINE VOICE on September 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover

George and Margaret Blackledge have been married forty years and have been through just about everything life can throw at them. And they have survived. Their love is deep, pure, and strong, as both of them are. Their devotion and dedication to each other is so profound readers correctly assume that the two would do anything for each other. Fate deals them a very cruel hand by taking their son, James, away from them after he dies due to a freak accident. Then, fate rearing her ugly head again, James' widow and young son, Jimmy, leave town, her marrying a no-good, white-trash, bad boy and moving to his home town. George and Margaret have lost about everything now except Margaret's need, desire, and will to go get their grandson and bring them back to live with them, his loving grandparents.

While Margaret and George deep down know that it won't be easy to convince their ex-daughter-in-law to part with her son, they are not prepared for the likes of the family she has married into -- the Weboy clan. Never have the Blackledge's met up with or could have imagined a family such as this, the Weboys. With their gumption still alive and ready to face just about anything, George and Margaret don't give up the good fight to claim their young grandson and bring him back home with them.

I absolutely loved this book. Larry Watson writes like butter -- smooth, rich, sweet tasting. His words flow and pour straight into your heart. For instance -- "The sun has dropped low enough to bring up the colors in the prairie grasses, the shades of lavender and gold that can't be seen at any other moment of the day and that incline most travelers through this landscape to silence. Gospel hour indeed.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Hartling on August 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Originally published on my blog at TheRelentlessReader.com

Have I been living under a rock? That seems to be the case because this was the first time I've read Larry Watson. What a complete shame. The good thing about discovering a new-to-me author? Backlist!

Margaret Blackledge is such an intriguing character. She's fierce. She's stubborn. She's the kind of woman that I'd like to be when I grow up.

Let Him Go is startling and rugged. The story is spare without a single wasteful word. The suspense was sensational and the ending was completely unexpected. Lucid prose and fantastic characters made this a compulsively readable novel.

If Mr. Watson's other books are as straightforward and precise as Let Him Go I'm in for a treat. I can't wait to add more of his works to my collection.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The simple plotting of Larry Watson's Let Him Go - the quest of Margaret and George Blackridge to reclaim their young grandson, who lives with his mother and rotten-to-the-core stepfather - belies the strong emotional impact of this exquisitely powerful book.

The power sneaks up on the reader when it is least expected - in a snatch of dialogue, a perceptive insight, a small detail that turns everything around. Larry Watson is a master of breathing life into his characters through ordinary conversations and actions that hint at extraordinary revelations that bubble right beneath the surface.

The story takes place in Dalton, North Dakota in 1951 in what some people refer to as the "real America" - a place where people don't waste words, where hard work and straight talk is respected, and where the people and the land are reliant on each other. Their grown son has met with tragedy, and Margaret prevails upon her taciturn husband to travel to Gladstone, Montana to find his namesake Jimmy...a boy who has been caught in the web of his stepfather's violent Weboy family.

Larry Watson walks a delicate tightrope; what he doesn't reveal is every bit as meaningful as what he describes. Is the long and tender marriage of Margaret and George more complex than it appears? What were they like as parents to their twins - James, who is now dead, and Janie, who is estranged from them? Does raising Jimmy give them the right to another chance?

Along the way, there are brutal surprises and heartbreaks and words so true they cause the reader to gasp at their validity. Take this, for example: "A four-year-old has so little past, and he remembers almost none of it, neither the father he once had nor the house where he once lived.
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