Let Him Go: A Novel

      Larry Watson
Let Him Go: A Novel

The celebrated author of Montana 1948 (over 400,000 copies sold) returns to the American West in this riveting tale of familial love and its unexpected consequences.

Dalton, North Dakota. It’s September 1951: years since George and Margaret Blackledge lost their son James when he was thrown from a horse; months since his widow Lorna took off with their only grandson and married Donnie Weboy. Margaret is steadfast, resolved to find and retrieve her grandson Jimmy — the one person in this world keeping James’s memory alive — while George, a retired sheriff, is none too eager to stir up trouble. Unable to sway his wife from her mission, George takes to the road with Margaret by his side, traveling through the Dakota badlands to Gladstone, Montana. When Margaret tries to convince Lorna to return home to North Dakota and bring little Jimmy with her, the Blackledges find themselves entangled with the entire Weboy clan, who are determined not to give up the boy without a fight. From the author who brought us Montana 1948, Let Him Go is pitch-perfect, gutsy, and unwavering. Larry Watson is at his storytelling finest in this unforgettable return to the American West.


Advance Praise for *Let Him Go*

"In Let Him Go, Larry Watson evokes the deepest kind of suspense: that based upon the fact that humans are unpredictable and perhaps ultimately unknowable—even to their most intimate associates. This fierce, tense book is beautifully written, with spare and economical prose out of which blooms a vivid and uncompromising portrait of the modern West. A brilliant achievement."
Alice LaPlante, bestselling author of Turn of Mind

"Let Him Go is as commanding as its title: you will be immediately gripped by the narrow-eyed, big-hearted pursuit of a child in danger. This is a literary thriller of the highest order—on par with Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone—an unrelenting quest through an unforgiving landscape and deadly family web."
Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon and The Wilding

“Slyly suspenseful, highly engaging.... Known for crisp images, resonant backdrops, and sharp characterizations drawn without flashy over-accessorizing, Watson’s latest traces the desperate lengths families will go to in order to protect their own.”
Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

"The sort of book that puts the shine back on genre as an adjective to describe fiction."

"Hooked from the first page. It doesn't happen often. Watson's perfect combination of style and story create a propulsive reading experience. Set in North Dakota and Montana in 1959, this compact novel delivers a multi-layered portrait of a long marriage, a child in peril, a couple of superbly crafted villains, and a fascinating cast of characters and family members met along the way. It is spare (like the Western novel it is) yet absolutely brimming and it made me wonder how he did it."
Stan Hynds, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT

"I loved this book. Larry writes in such stark sharp prose, telling a story that is heartbreaking. His characters are outlined with an emotional precision that is perfect."
Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT

“Larry Watson is, quite simply, an American classic. He uses language as stark and spare as the landscape he describes and direct and powerful as the people in two families caught up in a conflict that is bound for tragedy. If there is one voice for the northern plains, it is his.”
Bill Cusumano, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, MI

"A truly impressive read."
Jackie Blem, Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver CO

"I loved Let Him Go, so real, and heartbreaking, and tragic. It never let me go as I took a trip with George and Margaret Blackledge. Larry Watson is a master at setting up the gut-wrenching atmosphere and these hard-scrabble characters. My heart went out to them in their desperate situation and their dead end choices. Brilliant!”
Jason Kennedy, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

"Larry Watson has set a story of loss, and of two women with competing claims on a small boy, in the raw West only three years later than his classic Montana 1948. This tale of strong women, hard luck families, and family bonds inexplicably persistent even in the most tattered of families, spins out the consequences arising from unresolved grief—grief at the loss of a son that perhaps can be staunched by an inaccessible grandson. It’s a story of unintended consequences set into motion by single-minded determination to ease the grief. A very powerful and moving visit back to the unvarnished West of half-a century ago where justice and rule of law were spotty and sometimes very personal."
Darwin Ellis, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT

"A rare and scintillating and utterly mesmerizing novel."
Chris Faatz, Powell's Books, Portland, OR

"My favorite book so far this year, Let Him Go is absolutely perfect."
Dianah Hughley, Powell's Books, Portland, OR

"Spare, great characterization, really strong."
Emily Crowe, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

"What an incredible read...Could this be his best book ever?"
Judy Schultz, The Book Mark, St. Peter, MN

"Like far-off black clouds with the faint sound of thunder on the horizon, Let Him Go crescendos into a violent northern Plains thunderstorm.... Larry Watson has written a novel that will rival Montana 1948 in character development, storyline, and excitement."
Nancy Simpson-Brice, Book Vault, Oskaloosa, IA

Let Him Go is brilliant, devastating. I will be reading more Larry Watson.“
J Ganz, Books-A-Million, Dickson City, PA

"Watson's best work so far."
Marilyn Sieb, L.D. Fargo Library, Lake Mills, WI

Praise for Larry Watson


“Watson writes with ruthless honesty about his characters’ stunted dreams, unpredictable emotions and outbursts of senseless violence, showing once again that he understands not only the West but the untamed hearts that have roamed it.”
Publishers Weekly

“Watson’s powerful prose easily recreates the vivid beauty of Big Sky country.”

“Graceful shifts from observation to insight, capturing the spare beauty of the landscape.”
New York Times Book Review

“Watson’s sinewy third-person narrative dips into each character’s perspective. He also makes superb use of dialogue, both to illuminate his characters and to dramatize the intensity of their conflicts.”
Los Angeles Times

“There’s something eminently universal in Watson’s ponderings on the human condition, and it’s refracted through a nearly perfect eye for character, place, and the rhythms of language.”
The Nation

Praise for *American Boy*


“...powerful and exquisitely crafted...Watson’s portraits of small town life and the people who live it—mostly during the 1940s and 1950s—are compassionate and true.”
—Steve Mills, Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row

“There are a handful of writers I push on everyone I meet, and Larry Watson is one of them. For the past twenty years has quietly penned some of the wisest, most powerful novels in my library, and I am thrilled to make room on the shelf for his latest, a gripping, poignant coming-of-age story that opens with a gunshot that will ultimately bury its bullet in your heart. American Boy is an American classic.”
—Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon

“Larry Watson’s latest book, American Boy, may be his best yet. With the patient skill of a seasoned writer, Watson tells an engaging coming-of-age story of a young man in Willow Falls, Minnesota during the 1960s. Youthful passions, heartbreaks, loyalties and moral uncertainties are all rendered in vivid color.”
—David Rhodes, author of Jewelweed

“[Watson will] harvest a bumper crop of readers this autumn.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“[Watson] spins charm and melancholy around the same fingers, the result a soft but urgent rendering of a young man coming of age in rural America that is recognizable to even those of us who were never there.”
Denver Post

“Watson is sure-footed on familiar ground in American Boy.... [he’s] made something of a specialty of that space where teenagers struggle between hormonal urges and moral decisions as they grope toward adulthood. His evocation of that difficult passage feels as sure as his evocation of small-town life in the upper Midwest more than one generation ago.... As convincing as it is lonely and bleak.”
Billings Gazette

“Watson has penned some of the best contemporary fiction about small-town America, and his new novel does not disappoint.... With his graceful writing style, well-drawn characters, and subtly moving plot, Watson masterfully portrays the dark side of small-town America. Highly readable and enthusiastically recommended.”
Library Journal (STARRED)

“Eighteen years ago, Milkweed published Watson’s breakthrough novel, Montana 1948; now the author returns to Milkweed with another powerful coming-of-age story about a teenage boy [Matthew Garth] being shocked into maturity by a moment of sudden and unexpected violence.... Like Holden Caulfield trying to catch innocent children before they fall off the cliff adjoining that field of rye, Matthew struggles to save the Dunbars and, in so doing, save himself. He fails, of course, but that’s the point of much of Watson’s always melancholic, always morally ambiguous fiction: coming-of-age is about failure as much as it is about growth.”
Booklist (STARRED)

“Watson’s new novel about a young man’s coming-of-age in rural Minnesota during the early ’60s never veers off course.”
Publishers Weekly

“Watson's sixth novel resonates with language as clear and images as crisp as the spare, flat prairie of its Minnesota setting.... A vivid story of sexual tension, family loyalty and betrayal.”

“A true, realistic, and intelligent novel.... Watson does a wonderful job of peering under the masks of these small town folks and helping us see what their real selves are.”
—Carl Hoffman, Boswell Book Company

“Nobody knows the heartland better than Larry Watson...

From the Inside Flap


DALTON, NORTH DAKOTA. SEPTEMBER, 1951. It has been years since George and Margaret Blackledge
lost their son James when he was thrown from a horse; months since his widow left with their only grandson and married another man. Margaret is steadfast, resolved to find and retrieve her beloved grandson Jimmy—the last of the family line, and a living embodiment of her son’s memory—while George, a retired sheriff , is none too eager to stir up trouble. Unable to sway his wife from her mission, George takes to the road with Margaret by his side, traveling through the Badlands to Gladstone, Montana. But when Margaret tries to bring little Jimmy home to North Dakota, the Blackledges find themselves entangled with the Weboy clan, who are determined not to give up the boy without a fight.
From the author who brought us Montana 1948, Let Him Go is pitch-perfect—gutsy and
unwavering. Larry Watson is at his storytelling fi nest in this unforgettable return to the American West.

LARRY WATSON is the author of Montana 1948 and American Boy,among other novels. He is the recipient of the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, the Friends of American Writers award, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and many other prizes and awards. He teaches writing and literature at Marquette University, and lives with his wife, Susan, in Milwaukee.


Milkweed Editions

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    Montana 1948

      Larry Watson
Montana 1948

"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.

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      Larry Watson

Larry Watson's bestselling novel Montana 1948 was acclaimed as a "work of art" (Susan Petro, San Francisco Chronicle), a prize-winning evocation of a time, a place, and a family. Justice is the stunning prequel that illuminates the Hayden clan's early years, and the circumstances that led to the events of Montana 1948. With the precision of a master storyteller, Watson moves seamlessly among the strong and hard-bitten characters that make up the Hayden family, and in the process opens an evocative window on the very heart of the American West.

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    American Boy

      Larry Watson
American Boy

We were exposed to these phenomena in order that we might learn something, but of course the lessons we learn are not always what was intended.

So begins Matthew Garth's story of the fall of 1962, when the shooting of a young woman on Thanksgiving Day sets off a chain of unsettling events in small-town Willow Falls, Minnesota. Matthew first sees Louisa Lindahl in Dr. Dunbar's home office, and at the time her bullet wound makes nearly as strong an impression as her unclothed body. Fueled over the following weeks by his feverish desire for this mysterious woman and a deep longing for the comfort and affluence that appears to surround the Dunbars, Matthew finds himself drawn into a vortex of greed, manipulation, and ultimately betrayal.

Immersive, heart-breaking, and richly evocative of a time and place, this long-awaited new novel marks the return of a great American storyteller.

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