Review: Montana 1948

A friend of mine with a more literary bend (he has his MFA and teaches English at a local college) loaned me Montana 1948, by Larry Watson. Not my typical fare, but he recommended it highly and pointed out that it was a quick read (it took maybe three hours).

After reading it, wholeheartedly agree with his assessment–what an excellent book! The prose was lean and tight, with pearls of description that brought rural Montana to life through just a few pen strokes. The core of the story is about family relations and the prejudices of a small town. I was impressed by how little time and text it took Watson to establish the complex relationships between the half dozen different family members. He brought them to life in a direct way that I admire.

As the afterward in the edition I read noted, it is also an excellent example of fiction which addresses a difficult subject–specifically the abuse of Native Americans–without preaching. It comes in to tell a story, builds the story effectively, and in the course of that reveals the injustice of the not-so distant past. Montana 1948 is an excellent novel, and I’m going to be looking up more of Watson’s work in the near future.

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