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Montana 1948: A Novel Paperback – May 25, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Watson's novel about a middle-class Montana family torn apart by scandal during the summer of 1948 was awarded the Milkweed National Fiction Prize.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

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. The moral issues, and the consequences of following one's conscience, are made painfully evident here. Watson is to be congratulated for the honesty of his writing and the purity of his prose. Highly recommended.
- Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 186 pages
  • Publisher: Milkweed Editions (May 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1571310614
  • ISBN-13: 978-1571310613
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (241 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 55 people found the following review helpful By C. Fletcher on April 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
I lived in Bozeman, Montana the summer I was eight and I still have a lot of fond memories of the time my family spent there. I know I must talk about it a lot, because one day my girlfriend brought me this book and said, "I found something you have to read." From the cover and the write-up on the back, "Montana 1948" looked like it might be a nostalgic, bittersweet coming-of-age tale set in the Big Sky state.
It is all of those things, but it's more. Larry Watson spins a poignant, compelling narrative that deals with family, secrecy, innocence and corruption in a very moving way. The book's opening section gives a longish description of the setting. Soon after, drama unfolds and the plot becomes as thick as that of a mystery novel. As I was reading the book, I thought that I would probably give it a four star rating. But the ending was so beautifully moving that it bumped itself up.
The story is interesting and thought-provoking and the writing is lean but never pretentious. What I liked most about this book, though, was the rich characterization and the great pleasure I took in reading a well-told story. You'll enjoy this short, great novel, even if you've never thought twice about Montana.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Denise Bentley on December 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
Twelve-year-old David Hayden is about to watch three generations of his family enter into a maelstrom of events that will rip a family apart, leaving a gapping wound that time will never repair. This is the story of two brothers, one the favored son of a rich landowner, a doctor, and war hero, while the other is a father's disappointment.
Marie Little Soldier reveals a dark secret that sets Sheriff Hayden off on an investigation that turns up much more than is expected. Add murder to the formula, and you have a page turning thriller that will leave you aghast at the direction it takes.
Watson's writing flows along effortlessly as you catapult to an ending of cataclysmic proportion for this family. A family that has not only thrived on the justice of their time, but also has held it like a scepter to which there were no reprisals.
This author writes with a western flare of youth lost to an irrepressible end, quite similar to "All the Pretty Horses". I am looking forward to "Justice" which is a prequel to "Montana 1948". It gives an added glimpse into the lives of the characters before the winds of change turn their world on end. Watson is a keen storyteller that is certainly worth reading. 12/28/00
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By gac1003 on June 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
A grown-up David Hayden recounts the events during the summer of his twelfth year, the summer that changed his family forever. At his home in Montana with his father the County Sheriff and his mother, they employed a young Sioux woman named Marie Little Soldier to act as a housekeeper and as a nanny for David. She became a member of the family, so much so that when she took ill, they called in their own family doctor -- David's uncle (his father's brother) -- to look in on her. But she refused to be left alone in the room with him, and soon a dark family secret made its way into the open. A few days later, Marie mysteriously died, changing Hayden family relationships forever.

"Montana 1948" is a quiet novel, filled with insight into the 12-year-old mind when dealing with important issues that threaten the family. All the characters -- good and bad -- are presented realistically and believably, and as a reader, I really had a sense of what small town life in 1948 Montana must have been like. Author Larry Watson sets at the heart of his novel the difficulty of having to choose between family and what is right and just, all revealed through the eyes of young David. Gripping and powerful, this is a remarkable piece of writing.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By carly wyatt on December 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book, with its shocking scenarios and surprising actions, is a good, strong story of a family living in a small town with a very big name trying to make the right decisions and at the same time keep the family name good and pure. This is difficult, though, because of corruption and scandal that surfaces in this small town. the book is based around the Hayden family, which is made up of the grandfather who had been the sheriff for many years, his two sons, one is a veteran and a doctor who is married and the other is the recent sheriff who is married with a son, David. David is the narrator in this book, telling his life story, and what he went through as a 12 year old boy learning dark secrets about his once idolized family. This book is very powerful and I disagree with the Review by The New York Times Book Review, which states the "...coming-of-age novel depends on cliched characters to lug the story to its conclusion." On the contrary, the chararcters in this story make the conclusion as well as the rest of the book, very interesting and moving. For example, when David's mother, learns of their family's scandals and ends up pulling out her husbands gun to protect their house against a bunch of men trying to break in their house. This review also states that "Purple prose is the real culprit in this shallow yet overwrought tale.", which I also disagree with. Although this book may have some explicit language, it goes along with the story-line and only makes it stronger.
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