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Montana 1948

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  9,865 ratings  ·  1,472 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 182 pages
Published April 1st 1995 by Washington Square Press (first published 1993)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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 ·  9,865 ratings  ·  1,472 reviews

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Richard Derus
Oct 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing

Milkweed Editions

Rating: 5* of five Another one I'd give six stars to if I could.

The Publisher Says: 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 ab
Beautifully told story, great writer. A family of a sheriff in a small Montana town, whose brother it turns out, harasses Sioux women, is at the centre of the story. When he arrests his brother, tension increases in the town and his own father turns on him. What to do....The story is told through the eyes of his young son David. The book is concise, but the story is told in a great way, not a word too much, but you can feel the tension and emotion. Yeah, great writer.
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 ….

A young Sioux woman lies on a bed in our house. She is feverish, delirious, and coughing so hard I am afraid she will die.

My father kneels on the kitchen floor, begging my mother to help him. It’s a summer night and the room is brightly lit. Insects cluster around the light fixtures, and the pleading quality in
Diane Barnes
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I pulled this one off my shelf thinking I needed a shorter book that I could read in a day or two, and ended up finishing in three hours. It is a riveting tale of right and wrong and justice, complicated when the sheriff finds that his brother is implicated in some pretty bad dealings with Native American girls. Racism is very much a part of this novel as well, because justice for white men is very different depending on the color of the victim's skin. 169 pages of a story hard to put down until ...more
Nov 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Montana 1948 by Larry Watson. This is how it should be done. Clean simple writing and a good story well-told. There is no reason to pump up the volume simply for the sake of marketing a thicker book.

What it means to be a peace officer in Montana is 'knowing when to look and when to look away'. In a time tainted by underlying and sometimes overt racism, this tale is of the struggle between the ties that bind a family together and the moral code that begs for justice to be served.

Excellent work.
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Michael by: Richard
This 1993 novella wonderfully captures a great sense of place of growing up in a small prairie town in Montana and the loss of innocence by a boy experiencing the events and consequences of a case of abuse within his own family.

From a point four decades later, David begins his account with this powerful foreshadowing: “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 fad
Joy D
This book is a mini masterpiece – mini because it is under 200 pages. Protagonist David tells the story as an adult looking back forty years, when, at age twelve, in 1948, the discovery of family scandal profoundly changed many lives. This excerpt from the prologue provides an idea of what to expect:

“Two months ago, my mother died. She made, as the expression goes, a good death. She came inside the house from working in her garden, and a heart attack, as sudden as a sneeze, felled her in the kit
Jacob Appel
Aug 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Montana 1948 is a delightful yet unsettling gem, more a novella than a novel, that grapples with family relationships, the mistreatment of Native Americans, and sexual abuse, but is primarily an insightful coming-of-age story. As works of literary fiction go, Watson's narrative is as technically precise as a Mozart symphony: the voice is pitch-perfect, the pacing masterful, the characters drawn to perfection. Its easy to anticipate the major plot developments, particularly the ending, but this d ...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014

I find history endlessly amusing, knowing, as I do, that the record of any human community might omit stories of sexual abuse, murder, suicide ... Who knows – perhaps the region’s most dramatic, most sensational stories were not played out in the public view but were confined to small, private places. A doctor’s office, say. A white frame house on a quiet street.

David Hayden looks back from a middle age perspective at the events of the summer of his 12th year (“a series of images more vivid an
Sep 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
I started this book almost eight months ago; I also left this book mid-chapter almost eight months ago. I’m not really sure as to why I stopped reading this novel. Perhaps I saw where the story was going and could not get myself to go there with it; perhaps I just saw some shiny object and raced after it. Both scenarios are very plausible. Anyways, I decided to pick the book back up today and finished the last seventy or so pages that I previously abandoned. And let me say that I am so lucky to ...more
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Howard
4.5 stars

I started this book thinking of another: William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow. My friend Howard had mentioned the latter to me in relation to his last read of this (he’s read this three times; I've read So Long, See You Tomorrow three times) and it's one reason I decided to read this now. I agree that the two are reminiscent of one another; and that’s even though the narrator, David, does not carry the guilt that Maxwell’s narrator does.

Perhaps not enough gets said (at least not
John Winston
Aug 14, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a solid story with solid writing, tension, suspense, drama, characterization, and good dialogue and descriptions. Then why 3 stars which I rarely give? Well, The author went for a choice here in point of view that compromised the story. I’m sure the goal may have been to create suspense, but for me it just created a muted story where I found myself chomping at the bit wanting to know more about what was going on in the story. I wanted to see the conflict in the room between the Native Am ...more
May 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I hadn't taken so long in starting this book which has been malingering on my TBR list for awhile upon a family recommendation. Riveting story, austere prose, and bald-faced observances all make the revelation of hypocrisy, prejudice, and complicity by inaction horrifyingly main street.
J.K. Grice
Oct 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I liked listening to the audio book version of this novel
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Coming-of-age books have long captured the interest of readers, from contemporary classics like Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird to Louise Erdrich’s excellent novel The Round House. In the very best of these stories, a young boy or girl is forced to witness the ugliness of society and then must move forward – suddenly older, wiser and sobered.

And so it is here with Montana 1948, an absolutely breathtaking and spare novel, with images so searing that the line between reality and ficti
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This was a re-read of another title that I would call a perfect little book. Over the years I have recommended Montana, 1948 so many times to readers that I felt the need to go back and give it another read, just to make sure I still knew what I was talking about. I do. The novella is that perfect example of a suspenseful literary title, and the perfect prescription for literary readers grown bored with navel-gazing, and crime readers grown weary of the formulaic nature that even the best myster ...more
Sharon Huether
A story of living in rural Montana in 1948.
David and his parents lived close to an Indian Reservation. The Indians were part of their everyday life.
David's Father and his Uncle Frank were very different men. His father was the town Sheriff and his Uncle frank was a doctor in the town Bentrock.
The Uncle did some bad things and David's father was torn between the Law and loyality .
David did a lot of growing up that summer in 1948

The story was beautifully written, almost poetic.
Aug 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Geez. This book really got to me. I have been contemplative all the day long. Thinking of family and relationships. The way some families are enmeshed in unhealthy ways. The dynamics of power. Small towns. Racism.

I read this novella in pretty much one sitting. The sense of urgency I felt to finish it made me uncommonly tense. So what happened in Montana in 1948? Before or after?

Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-reads
Read this stellar novella if you want to know what it feels like to be an only child, 12 years old, and have your mostly-perfect life changed forever by grownups you trust and circumstances you can't control. 52-year-old David Hayden tells us the story of his summer of 1948, the summer of "indelible" images: "I flinched and a part of me said leave, get away, run, now before it's too late, before you hear something you can't unhear. Before everything changes. But I pressed myself closer to the ho ...more
Nov 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I think the whole "coming of age" novel has been done to death, and so often is done badly. This slim book (more of a novella than a novel) is the exception to my rule. The story of a boy who discovers that his family is not exactly what he thought they were rings so true to me. The 'voice' is just right for a boy on the fine line between childhood and adolescence who is starting to search for the true meaning behind the things adults tell him - and the things they choose not to tell him. He sne ...more
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
A wonderful little book. More thoughts later when I have time.
This novel opens with a series of disturbing snapshots. They emanate, unedited, from the mind of 12-year-old David Hayden back in 1948. Unbidden, they have resurfaced many times in his life, impervious to the softening haze of time. Experienced in their totality they will form less of a linear narrative and more of an impasto of emotion to David's adult self.

1948. Forget the unifying effect of World War II on the nation. Forget the Pima Native American Ira Hayes at Iwo Jima. Forget the “Code-Tal
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: montana-setting
It’s the perfect book for me. Watson is a brilliant story teller and a master with words.

Note to self because I know I’ll forget eventually: Father states don’t blame this on Montana at very end of book.
Susan Johnson
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a gem of a novel. I just couldn't get over how good it is and that I have never heard of it. It is is set in a small town in Montana in 1948 and perfectly captures the time period. Although my small town was in Calif. and I wasn't born until 1953, I knew this place. It was home. It talks about the secrets small towns keep like the male teacher who likes boys more than girls, the child that is not a sibling but an offspring and the crooked judge.

There is a Native American population th
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In my little life full of coincidences, I would never have believed it if someone told me I would unintentionally read two books in one month with plots based upon the rape of Native American women by white men and both set in the northern plains. (Not because I don't believe it, but because it's not exactly a common literary fiction topic.) "Round House" by Louise Erdrich was the first and now, this. Did Louise Erdrich use Montana 1948 (published 20 years earlier) as a springboard for the RH? W ...more
Sep 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-audible
Another great American Western novel - I'm on a hot streak!
Jonathan Terrington
Montana 1948 is a beautiful lyrical little novel of around 160 pages. Set in Bentrock, Montana, in 1948, it is a powerful exploration of conflict, relationships and power dynamics in the world around us from the perspective of one boy growing up through a scandalous time period.

I had never read Montana 1948 before the start of last week when I was required to read it in order to teach it. Having done so I was fascinated by such a poetic, provocative and beautiful little novel. It's a subtle nov
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a terrific western novel!
This is a very fast read, not because it is less than 200 pages, but because the flow is excellent!
The writing is very simple and direct.
Although the topic (sexual abuse) is not an easy one, I thought that the story was very engaging and well developed.
I love when a book captivates me in a way that makes me totally oblivious of time and space.
This was the author’s first novel, originally published in 1993, and only yesterday I heard about it.
It was awarded the Milkw
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015
This book was recommended to me by my LT friends and I got a copy from Paperback Swap. This little novel was a really excellent read. Set in 1948 Montana (duh), its the story of David Hayden and his family. David is the 12 yr old son of the Sheriff of Mercer County. His grandfather was the former sheriff, and his Uncle is a "can do no wrong" war hero and local doctor. Circumstances in the story (which I won't reveal), make the family have to choose between family loyalty and justice and truth. I ...more
So clearly, it is an award winning novel and I shouldn't be surprised to give it 5 stars. I also read American Boy a few years back and loved that, so definitely I am a Larry Watson fan. However, for some reason I had it in my head that this was a long cowboy western (kind of like McMurtry's Lonesome Dove) and so had kind of been avoiding it. It's not like that. This is a really great book. And it's also really short. So, I was wrong on a couple of counts.

The setting and rough plot (racist relat
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Play Book Tag: [Poll Ballot] Montana 1948 by Larry Watson - 5 stars & a favorite 13 16 May 05, 2020 04:40PM  
Indian surnames? 1 11 May 25, 2016 07:30PM  
Am I the only one? 1 24 May 25, 2016 07:09PM  
Play Book Tag: Montana 1948 by Larry Watson - 4 stars 3 16 May 15, 2016 08:47PM  
Clean, Fiction, (Maybe) Short Book About a Hard Decision? 1 4 Nov 23, 2015 08:37AM  
ENG 580 Spring 2014: Montana 1948 1 10 Feb 16, 2014 08:29AM  
Ironi in this book 1 19 Sep 10, 2013 10:52AM  

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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 Ph.D. from the creative writing program at the University of Utah, and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Ripon College. Watson ...more

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