Montana 1948 by Larry Watson.
We librarians have certain prized-yet-little-known titles that we return to again and again when suggesting books to readers. Over the years I have recommended Montana, 1948 so many times to readers that I felt the need to go back and give it another read, just to make sure I still knew what I was talking about. I do. The novella is that perfect example of suspenseful mainstream fiction, making it the perfect prescription for literary readers feeling a bit bored with navel-gazing, and crime readers feeling a bit stale from too much formula. Far more often than one would expect this little 1993 title has come up when I’m talking with readers about books that they’re really loved. The book is tightly constructed and doesn’t really allow me to relate much plot, as the discoveries are paced so well. Through the wistful voice of a grown man looking back at his Western childhood that will seem familiar to fans of Willa Cather’s My Antonia or Conrad Richter’s The Sea of Grass, we gradually learn of the rivaly of the Hayden brothers, one a war hero and doctor, the other a sheriff. Soon a shameful secret is revealed, and sets in motion an unavoidable conflict between the two men, with unforeseen consequences. “A good book is twice as good if it is short,” said Balthasar Gracian. Truer words were never spoke.