Montana 1948 by Larry Watson
Review by Vicky T. (VickyJo)
Montana 1948 is a short, but powerful novel by Larry Watson. It was published in 1993, won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, and was named one of the Best Books of 1993 by two very respected literary magazines, Library Journal and Booklist. It deserved these honors, and more.
David Hayden looks back at the summer of 1948. He was 12 years old, and living in Montana. His father is the sheriff of Mercer County. He is a quiet, dedicated man, who never wears his badge or carries his gun, much to David’s disappointment. David’s uncle Frank is a doctor, a charming man ready with a smile and a joke; he is a war hero, a local celebrity, and a respected physician.
So–here’s the premise: What if you’re the sheriff of a small community, and you find out that your own brother, a doctor…a man much admired by family and friends….is accused of molesting the Native American female patients he treats out on the reservation. If it were a stranger, you would arrest him and hold him for trial. But it’s not a stranger; it’s your brother, your father’s favorite.
Just as you think Sheriff Hayden has things settled with his brother, a sudden turn of events kicks the dilemma up a notch. Tragedy strikes and things get worse, if that’s possible.
We watch the events of the summer of 1948 unfold through young David’s eyes. David must watch his father make a terrible choice between family loyalty and justice, and he learns powerful lessons about love, honor, courage and the abuse of power. He’ll never look at his family in the same way again. This book is an absolute gem.