Montana 1948

“Meditative, rich, and written close to the bone.” —LOUISE ERDRICH
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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 Larry Watson’s modern classic, widely recognized as both “one of the top 100 novels of the West” (San Francisco Chronicle) and “a significant and elegant addition to contemporary American fiction in general” (Washington Post). The novel tells the story of the cataclysmic summer of 1948, when the charges of a young Sioux woman force David Hayden’s father, the sheriff of their small town, to confront his older brother, a charming war hero and respected doctor. As the small town takes sides, David witnesses the unraveling of his family brought on by the revelation of a simple truth.

 An astonishing tale of love and courage, Montana 1948 asks what it means to make the terrible choice between family loyalty and justice.

Publish Date
5.25 × 7.5 × 0.5 in
7.6 oz

Larry Watson

Larry Watson is the author of numerous novels, including Montana 1948, American Boy, As Good As Gone, and Let Him Go, which was adapted into a film by Focus Features and released in 2020. Born in Rugby, North Dakota, he grew up in Bismarck and is now Visiting Professor at Marquette University. He lives in Milwaukee.

Praise and Prizes

  • “This story is as fresh and clear as the trout stream fished by its narrator, David Hayden, growing up near the Montana-Canada border… . As universal in its themes as it is original in its particularities, Montana 1948 is a significant and elegant addition to the fiction of the American West, and to contemporary American fiction in general.”

    Washington Post
  • “Meditative, rich, and written close to the bone, Montana 1948 is a beautiful novel about the meaning of place and evolution of courage. It is a wonderful book.”

    Louise Erdrich
  • “Utterly mesmerizing … There’s something eminently universal in Larry Watson’s ponderings on the human condition, and it’s refracted through a nearly perfect eye for character, place and the rhythms of language. Fiction at its finest.”

    The Nation
  • “A spare, unpretentious but riveting book … Montana 1948 is a superbly rendered novel. The writing is clean, the characters finely drawn, the whole book deeply felt and honest.”

    Houston Chronicle
  • “Wonderful … Be prepared to read this compact book in one sitting. Start at 10 p.m. By 11, you’re hooked. You finish in the wee hours, mesmerized by the fast-moving plot, the terse language, uncompromising characterization and insights into life on the northern plains.”

    Baltimore Sun
  • “The relationship of landscape to personality is a familiar theme, especially in western literature, but it may never have been explored with as much sensitivity and as fine an eye for detail as Larry Watson manages in this stunning coming-of-age novel… . A quiet, almost meditative reflection on the hopelessly complex issue of doing the right thing.”

    (starred review)
  • “A taut, memorable novel … In crisp, restrained prose, Larry Watson indelibly portrays the moral dilemma of a family torn between justice and loyalty; by implication, he also illuminates some dark corners of our national history.”

    Publishers Weekly
    (starred review)