Montana 1948: A Novel

Montana 1948: A Novel

by Larry Watson


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“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… “ So begins David Hayden’s story of what happened in Montana in 1948. The events of that cataclysmic summer permanently alter twelve-year-old David’s understanding of his family: his father, a small-town sheriff; his remarkably strong mother; David’s uncle Frank, a war hero and respected doctor; and the Haydens’ Sioux housekeeper, Marie Little Soldier, whose revelations turn the family’s life upside down as she relates how Frank has been molesting his female Indian patients. As their story unravels around David, he learns that truth is not what one believes it to be, that power is abused, and that sometimes one has to choose between family loyalty and justice.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781571310613
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publication date: 05/25/2007
Pages: 186
Sales rank: 63,131
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 7.25(h) x (d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

Table of Contents

What People are Saying About This

Louise Erdich

A beautiful novel about the meaning of place and evolution of courage....A wonderful book.

Reading Group Guide

1. What motivates Frank Hayden's final act? (The author has characterized it as both a selfish and a selfless act.)

2. Late in the novel, Gail Hayden changes her attitude. She no longer wants her husband to continue the course of action that earlier she encouraged him to follow. What causes her to change?

3. What does Wesley Hayden mean by his admonishment not to "blame Montana"?

4. A great deal of attention is paid to locating Bentrock (a fictional community) on the map. Why? What role does the setting play in the novel?

5. Whose story is this? Wesley's? David's? Why?

6. Who is the moral center of the story? Why?

7. How does prejudice play into the story?

8. Why is Wesley Hayden especially concerned when his son David tells him that Len McAuley might "know something"?

9. What would the outcome of the story have been had David's father publicly arrested his uncle? Would things have turned out better? Worse? Would you have done the same thing as Wesley had it been your family?

10. Was there any justice for the crimes committed by Uncle Frank?

11. Most of the novel's action takes place in 1948. Why did the author choose that year? Could the events occur today?

12. In what ways is the novel about privilege and the abuse of power?

13. What is the effect of David Hayden telling this story so many years after the fact?

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Montana, 1948 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 143 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel is fast paced, brilliantly populated, and beautifully set. The author does a great job of articulating his alienated characters over the unforgiving landscape he has created. I recommend it, but with one reservation... it's too short.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Montana1948, a novel by Larry Watson, deserves a 4 star rating because of its meaningful, relevant content and well-written exploration of the depth and changes of character of the main personas as a result of making difficult choices under immense pressure. Montana 1948 lays out the experiences of David Hayden, a 12 year old boy, during one summer in the small town of Bentrock. From the very first page, the author indicates the significance of the events that are to follow and provides snapshots of a few particularly vivid moments. Soon after the characters have been described the action proceeds and tension begins to build between the characters. By the time the final chapter is reached David had left behind his childhood and been forced to drastically change his perspective on both his family and the world they live in. As stated in the 1993 book review by Booklist, Montana 1948 is a ¿reflection on the hopelessly complex issue of doing the right thing ¿ and on the courage it takes to face one¿s demons.¿ Many times throughout the narrative characters have questioned the `right choice¿, as when Len, the deputy, spoke of learning when to look away, as when David¿s father decided to lock his brother in the basement, and as when, at the conclusion, David felt that he had lost all belief in the rule of law. David¿s father faced the knowledge of his brother¿s crimes and stood up against his father to bring Frank to justice. Secondly, as stated in the above mentioned book review, Montana 1948 also explores the ¿cataclysmic events on naturally reticent people.¿ David¿s perspective of nearly all the people in his family life is forever altered by his exposure to other, hidden sides of them. Because armed men came into their yard, David saw his mother use a shotgun. Because Marie spoke out, David realized that his uncle was not as wonderful as he seemed. Because of the combination of nearly unbearable living conditions and the admitted guilt of Frank, David¿s mother and father completely switched sides his mother now asked that Frank be released and his father could not do so. When faced with such a stark admission, he could no longer pretend nothing was happening.
LevkoOpryshok More than 1 year ago
The book Montana 1948 was written by Larry Watson in 1993. It great fiction, a western novel for everyone who likes to read about justice and crime in family clans. The young boy David and his family lived in Montana. His father, Wes Hayden, is a sheriff and David's uncle Frank is a doctor. The Hayden brothers are very famous, and the town of Bentrock respects them. The town does not have a clinic and Dr.Frank is the first one who will help people and who will do his best for them. But one moment when Marie, who was is Hunkpapa Sioux and David's babysitter got sick, everything changed because Sheriff Wes found out the terrible truth about his brother Frank. Sheriff Wes investigated his own brother. It was very difficult for him because he has to punish his sibling. In the investigations, he includes a sheriff deputy Len. I believe, he would want to deal with it by himself but father prevents him because he wants to protect and hide his sin from law. They never expected that a war hero and a reputable person in town could do something really bad. With every page, the book Montana 1948 became more interesting. Larry Watson knows how to encourage people to read.
hannah1028 More than 1 year ago
This short book is one that expresses the importance of justice, family, and loyalty, as well as decision making and power. Decision making and loyalty are closely tied in this book. You also begin to question yourself as you read. Would you stay loyal to justice and the good of the whole, or abuse your power to stay loyal to your family? These intriguing questions will keep you interested and wanting to read on. This quick read is one that is sure to keep your attention and keep you thinking.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The ideas Larry Watson brings to light about human behavior transcend time and cultural barriers. However, Mr. Watson's five star novel, Montana 1948, is more than just a story. Its pages tell the true story of life's fairness and the rewards of doing the right thing. Although Barbra Finkelstein of The New York Times Book Review says that the novel, ¿¿depends on cliched characters to lug the story to its conclusion,¿ I disagree. The ability to relate to the narrator¿s family and upbringing is one of this story¿s greatest attributes. The stereotypical the characters add a sense of familiarity for many readers, and allow them to better immerse themselves in the plot. Also, the story itself did much more than ¿lug¿. Its suggestions about how our society were thought provoking such as in the part where the narrator recounts how the people in town would often ¿look the other way¿ when faced with problems such as his uncles molestation of the Indian girls. In addition to this, its unpredictable twists leave the reader unable to turn the pages fast enough. Wesley, the narrator¿s father, is the town sheriff and is faced with a, ¿moral dilemma,¿ as Publishers Weekly puts it. His All-American brother has been molesting Indian girls and may have murdered one. It is then that Wesley must decide between treating the situation as a family member and simply letting it slide out of loyalty or as the county¿s Sheriff with the intent of prosecuting this criminal to the fullest extent. When he decides that prosecution would do nothing but embarrass the family name, he plans to let his brother off the hook. However, once his brother admits to and tells explicitly of his crimes without any show of remorse, Wesley becomes determined to bring him to justice. I agree with Barbara Hoffert of Library Journal when she says, ¿The moral issues, and the consequences of following one¿s conscience, are made painfully evident here.¿ Mr. Watson does not make life out to be a fairytale. When the narrator and his family are forced to move away from their home because of the choice they made to do what they thought was right Mr. Watson stated simply the truth that often times the ¿good guys¿ don¿t win.
Whisper1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rarely can I say that a book leaves me speechless or searching to describe how much of an impact it registers. Montana 1948 is such a tale.Not since reading To Kill a Mockingbird, has the written word resonated on this level.Published in 1960, Harper Lee's incredible one-hit wonder marks its 50 year anniversary this summer. Recently Lee remarked to her 80 year old Monroeville, Alabama minister that there was no need to write another and stated that she wrote "a simple tale about the conflict of the human soul."While reading Montana 1948 I was reminded of To Kill a Mockingbird. The similarities are striking in many ways. There are strong characters. There is a child seeking sense of adult behaviors in difficult moral and ethical situations. There are black and white events with graduated bands of gray in their complexity.There are flawed, bigoted individuals who tenaciously hold fast to their belief of superiority. There is an overwhelming theme that choosing the "right" thing to do can have far reaching consequences that usually do not net the end result of fairness and goodness to the individual who sacrifices.Montana 1948 is indeed a story of the conflict and complexity of the human soul.Run, don't walk to the bookstore to obtain this book! Then, spend a few hours savoring each and every word and all the incredible nuances.I believe that when you finish, you will want to tell your friends, your co-workers, your family about this book. I also believe you may struggle to explain the depth of feeling, and it may be difficult to find words to describe the sheer power of its beauty.
tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a must read book. Phil Jackson, coach of the championship LA Lakers who chooses books for all his players every year (so they'll have something to read on the team bus/plane) chose this one for Kobe Bryant. It is a stunning, short, exquisite portrait of a young man's (David Hayden) coming of age in small town America just after WWII. It tells the story of his family's relationship with Marie Little Soldier, his mother's housemaid (and his unofficial nanny), and how her illness and subsequent death had such an impact on his parents, grandparents, and particularly his uncle the town doctor.The concise, clear prose tells the story from David's point of view as he struggles to make sense of how the adults in his life are acting, reconciling their actions with their words (or their silences), trying to balance their overt prejudice against his own experience of friendship and love. His father, a lawyer by education, but town sheriff by employment must face unpleasant truths and is asked to sacrifice his moral sense to please his family. The shattering events, the moral dilemmas, and the astonishing ending make this a truly poignant, anguished story of love, hate, betrayal and redemption. It's hard to say much more without spoiling future readers' enjoyment of this gem.I listened to this on audio because I love the format but also because the audio was available and there was a wait of several weeks for the print version. Besides, Beau Bridges did the narration, and I figured I couldn't go wrong with that. It was excellent. This is one that I will be buying however because it is one I will want to read again and again. It belongs on all high school reading lists right up there with "To Kill a Mockingbird." It's that good.
tapestry100 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Montana 1948 is a quietly powerful story, one that doesn't need a lot of bravado to tell its tale, but one that still packs a mighty punch that will leave you setting the book aside and taking a moment to think about it and what it means. It is a coming of age story, but not only for the narrator David Hayden, but also for his mother, his father, his family as a whole. David discovers that life is not always quite black and white, his mother proves her strength, his father finally stands on his own, learning the difference between the loyalty of family and his loyalty to the law.The Hayden's housekeeper, Marie, falls ill and when David's uncle, Frank, is called in to check on her, it is discovered that Frank has been molesting his female Indian patients. A war hero and member of the respected Hayden family, it is hard to believe that Frank has done these things, and his brother, David's father, the sheriff, has a harder time deciding what to do: be loyal to his brother and try to keep the secret quiet or uphold the law and take his brother into custody. David's grandfather, the previous sheriff of Mercer County, doesn't make things easier, thinking his clout in town will be enough to keep his son safe. What follows tests and proves the strength of every member of the Hayden family.Montana 1948 is not a very long book, but tells a story that fills its pages to brimming. It won't take you long to read it, but I'm pretty sure you'll be thinking about it far after you've moved on to other books. I'll be on the lookout for more by Larry Watson in the future.
YAbookfest on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
David adores Marie Little Soldier, the young Sioux woman who looks after him and the Hayden home while his parents work. When she becomes ill, they naturally call on Frank Hayden, David¿s uncle and the town doctor to care for her. But for some reason, Marie adamantly refuses to see him and begs David to tell his mother that she doesn¿t need a doctor. His father cracks, sarcastically, ¿What does she need, David? A medicine man?¿ When Marie confides her true fears to David¿s mother, Gail, she reveals the terrible truth about Frank Hayden. He may be one of the most charming and highly respected men in town, but Frank Hayden is a criminal. And David¿s father is the town sheriff.As the truth unravels, David¿s father, Wes, is torn between his loyalty to his family, his responsibilities as sheriff and his own ethics. In this gripping story, David watches on as his mother shows her quiet strength, his grandfather shows his ruthlessness and his father struggles with his decision.The writing style is strong and spare, like the Montana setting. And, just like the characters in the story, the things that are not said aloud are often more important than the words that are expressed. Some schools may shy from the adult subject matter the book addresses, but for those high school teachers willing to take on mature topics, it will generate serious discussion about ethics, prejudice, and hidden truths.
Schatje on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was published almost 20 years ago; I came across it in a list of recommendations by a blogger whose opinion I have come to respect.The narrator, David Hayden, reflects on his childhood in Montana forty years earlier. The Hayden family housekeeper, a Sioux woman named Marie Little Soldier, falls ill but doesn't want to receive treatment from Frank Hayden, the local doctor. Wesley Hayden - David's father, Marie's employer, Frank's brother and the town sheriff - learns that his brother has been sexually molesting Native American women. He and his family are torn between loyalty and justice as Wes must decide what to do.The novel is a coming-of-age book, showing David's journey from innocence to experience. It also tackles other issues like racism, the abuse of privilege and power, and the omission of stories from the historical records of communities.The narrative is not perfect. So much of what is happening David learns through eavesdropping; surely the author could come up with another technique? Wesley's actions are sometimes not logical, especially when he becomes convinced of his brother's guilt; as a consequence, the nature of Frank's fate is totally predictable. This book tends to be classified as young adult fiction, and with its themes, imagery, and symbols, it lends itself to being taught in English classes. It is young adult fiction, however, only in the sense that "To Kill a Mockingbird" can be seen as young adult fiction. It definitely gives adults some things to consider as well.
snash on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a spectacular gripping book. It's a concise, tale with complex characters and moral dilemmas told from the perspective of an adult remembering his twelfth year.
laytonwoman3rd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A moral struggle witnessed by a 12-year-old boy, recounted by the mature reflective man he became. The story is clean and simple, although the events it relates are neither. It has many of the same elements found in To Kill a Mockingbird...a child's summer marred by adult concerns, racial tensions and sexual crimes. But David Hayden's recollection of the summer of 1948 conveys none of the nostalgia or childhood innocence of Jean Louise Finch's reminiscence. Although David's parents and other adults constantly try to protect him from knowledge of the events unfolding in his own home and community, he sees, hears and understands far more than they realize. This was a fast read, with a compelling story line, but minimal character development. We learn only what we need to know, and only at the point in the story where we need to know it, about any given person. By the end I felt I understood David and his parents well enough, but I didn't like any of them very much, and I didn't long to know more about their lives. In fact I could have done without the epilogue, which blunted what I felt to be the true end of the story. I give it 3 1/2 stars.
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very different coming-of-age story, told from the point of view of a 12 year old boy, David, in a small town in Montana, summer of the year 1948. The prologue is immediately gripping: a series of dramatic images from that summer, that beg for expansion, explanation.David Hayden¿s father, Wesley, is the sheriff in Bentrock, Montana, a position he was more or less forced to inherit from his domineering, controlling father. David¿s mother, Gail, who is not from Montana, is a formal woman, even with her son, gentle but firm and somewhat distant. But her sense of right and wrong is absolute.The Hayden housekeeper, Marie Little Soldier, a Hunkpapa Sioux, becomes ill and David¿s mother wants to send for the family doctor, who is Wesley¿s brother, Frank. Marie becomes hysterical and begs not to have Frank attend her. Frank, who was a WWII hero, did have a reputation when younger of `running wild¿ on the Sioux reservation, a euphemism for, basically, raping Indian women. This is not really condemned in Bentrock; the mores of the times held that the Indians were inferior, as superstitious lot, and such conduct among white men, was tolerated although not exactly encouraged.To her shock, Gail finds out that frank has been abusing his power as a doctor by molesting young girls on the Indian reservation. She tells Wesley¿and the story erupts from there.This is a story about choice¿moral choice vs family loyalty and tradition. These, in my opinion, are always the most powerful stories, when moral choice is neither the easiest nor the most obvious side to take. Watson does a brilliant job of showing how everything¿tradition, family social mores¿piles up against the moral choice. The resolution is dramatic and necessary.Watson¿s writing is truly excellent. It¿s calm, not dramatic at all. He writes extremely well from the point of view of a 12 year old boy, and he captures the attitudes of a 12 year old utterly believably. Those attitudes and attendant emotions are NOT those of an adult, and Watson¿s language and skillful story-telling bring that across powerfully. The writing is detached, as is proper for the character of David, and is perfect for emphasizing the horror of what happens.The characters of David¿s mother and father, Gail and Wesley are quietly drawn and real. David¿s grandfather is a powerful figure, frightening in his assumptions of omniscience and omnipotence. Frank is not so well drawn, simply because he himself doesn¿t appear much in the story itself, yet his character is central to the story, and that character is defined well enough to fuel the tension within the family. The contrast among all the characters is well done, their voices distinct.This is a superb book. Highly recommended.
jaygheiser on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very readable and compelling 'detective story'. A young boy's experience of law and order as demonstrated by his father, the sherrif, in what is apparently something of an allegory about the relationship between european settlers and native americans.
MrsHillReads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. It was good historical fiction, it had a moral, and it took place in Montana--what's not to like?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a well written and interesting book
Ilovemister More than 1 year ago
This book was wonderful. couldn't put it down. I don't think that this book is for 14-18 age group. I didn't even realize that was what it was marketed for. This book is great for adults. Great writer.
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DStan29 More than 1 year ago
I really liked this novel, Larry did a wonderful view of capturing the words. This deserves a 5 star rating, This is a short book but it does a very great job of explaining what has happened back then in the late 40's and what the consequences were, and the fact that there wasn't much technology to prove anything. This book expresses about an importance of family, justice and how loyal others are. This novel is very clear but it is somewhat confusing. I thought this book would be boring, as a High School student, but it was quite the intensity, and  it was some things that I hadn't expected to be in this book. This can teach you about what you should/n't do, because of consequences. Great Book...Loved it. It is a very hard book to put down, the details are amazing!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was interesting as such but not much more and it was just a tad over 100 pages. I noted that it was reduced from $14.00 to the $11.48 I overpaid for it. I read in no time at all and I was furious. TOTAL rip-off!
AlaskanReader More than 1 year ago
Montana 1948 marks the second book by Larry Watson that will make my top ten list of books for 2014. I loved the characterizations, the story, the narrator, and the writing overall. The story is narrated by 12 year-old David Hayden of Bentrock, Montana. He is part of THE Hayden family, his grandfather a powerful and rich rancher. His father, Wes, is a lawyer turned sheriff, and his mother, Gail, works at the courthouse. The family seems very happy and David is a precocious and inward boy, enjoying the land and his horse Nutty, that he keeps at his grandfather's ranch. Marie, a Sioux Indian, is the housekeeper and babysitter for David's family and David loves her. She is kind, powerful and efficient. One day, David hears Marie coughing and realizes that she is ill. She keeps saying that she doesn't want to see a doctor. What she means is that she doesn't want to see Frank, Wes's brother, who is one of the two town doctors. Of course, the Haydens always call Frank for medical reasons as he is family. However, Marie is adamant and when the Haydens call Frank Marie insists that Gail be in the room during the examination. She tells Gail later that Frank has molested several of the young women on the reservation and that it's a widely known fact. The story deals with issues of integrity and loyalty. Does Wes deal with these allegations against his brother or does he let them go? Frank is, after all a war hero and a respected citizen with a beautiful wife. Wes's father is very powerful and Frank is the golden son while Wes is second best. How will the town deal with this information if it is to come out? David hears all that is going on by listening to the adults and it is refreshing to hear a narrator that I believe is reliable. It is also refreshing to hear the story narrated by an adult from his twelve-year old perspective. The novel is short at 169 pages but it is long on emotions, psychological intrigue, and brilliance. Larry Watson is a writer that I have recently discovered but I have ordered all his books. There is a book of connected short stories about the Hayden clan that I think will be exceptionally good. I am thrilled to have discovered Larry Watson. As a lover of literary fiction, I can think of no better writer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the kind of story that you want to share with your best friends. The characters are well developed and the plot engaging. I finshed the book wishing there were more pages to turn. I've ordered several of Larry Watson's books and that's the best compliment I can think of to convey how much I liked the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was one of those books that you cant put down. It wonder whats gonna happe next.and i love thie twist at the end