Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Review: Let Him Go by Larry Watson

I first discovered Larry Watson when I read his stunning, beautiful, and stark novel, Montana, 1948, many years ago. That book still haunts me and I was hoping for a similar reaction to his latest.  Let Him Go is another slight, Western set novel, with a plot so visceral and gripping that I wasn't disappointed.  Another gorgeously exquisite, heartbreaking and masterful novel.

It is 1951 and Margaret Blackledge is not content for her only grandson to disappear with his mother and new stepfather. Little Jimmy is the only link she and husband George, a retired sheriff in small Dalton, North Dakota, have to their late son James.  Margaret knows that Jimmy's new stepfather, Donnie Weboy, is not a good person, abusive and mean to her beloved grandson and she is decided that she will follow Lorna and Donnie to the ends of the earth if need be in order to bring back her grandson. How she'll convince the boy's mother to give him up remains to be seen. And she has no idea of the resistance, ugliness, and simmering violence awaiting her in the form of Donnie's ruthless, morally bankrupt clan. But Margaret is driven by her love for her son and grandson and she is resolved not to come home without her boy.

George is a much more stoic character than Margaret and more inclined to let things lie but when his choice is to watch Margaret leave on her quest or to accompany her, there is no choice really. And it is George who discovers that their journey into the Weboy underworld will cost them far more than they expected. As Margaret and George travel towards Gladstone, Montana, their relationship, its quiet endurance and its unspoken love and support, is laid bare in their conversations, the simple quiet, and the internal expectations each harbors. Margaret's fierce, driving determination becomes a shared thing so that once they encounter the sinister Blanche Weboy, matriarch of the lawless and vigilante clan, they are as one, even under the onslaught of a twisted and possessive evil.

Watson's writing is spare, eloquent, and elegant, echoing the frozen wide open spaces of the landscape. There is a stillness and a sense of waiting about the novel and in the characters, Margaret and George in particular. The ending is shocking and yet the only way the novel could possibly end. A tour de force about justice, strength, sacrifice, and all the lengths to which people will go in order to rescue those they love, this is a powerful and deceptively simple book.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review.

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