Friday, April 16, 2010

Montana 1948

Montana 1948 Montana 1948 by Larry Watson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
OK, I admit, as a native Montanan, I'm a sucker for books about growing up and living there. (e.g. anything by Ivan Doig) But I hdan't heard of this author before – my sister stumbled across the book in the Goodwill store in Moscow, ID and brought it home for my dad to read, and then I borrowed it and read it.

It takes place in the fictional town of Bentrock, in the NE corner of Montana. Though the town is fictional, its people and their struggles, prejudices and relations are very real. The author has captured life in small town Montana quite well.

And as any good book about small town Montana, Indians play a role. And in this novel, a critical role.

The narrator is a young boy, from the prominent family in the region, whose father is the county sheriff. Events arise that uncover some shameful secrets in the family, and what happens when those secrets come to the surface. The young boy, as most boys, both idolizes and also feels distant from his father. And sometimes a bit ashamed of him (he doesn't carry a gun on duty, for one thing). Seeing the story through someone's eyes who is connected (by blood) but also apart from (by age) gives us a unique vantage point.

I suppose you could call it a 'coming of age' story, as, certainly, at the end, our narrator is not the naïve child he was at the beginning. It's also very much a 'classic' western story, with much of the tension of “High Noon” or “3:10 to Yuma”. It's also a bit of a myth-buster, showing the sordid truth of much of Western race relations, that many people don't want to hear or believe.

I found it quite powerful and full of truth.

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