American Boy

Larry Watson, Author
Larry Watson. Milkweed (PGW, dist.), $24 (224p) ISBN 978-1-57131-078-1
Paperback - 249 pages - 978-1-57131-095-8
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-283-26292-7
Open Ebook - 265 pages - 978-1-57131-846-6
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Watson’s new novel about a young man’s coming-of-age in rural Minnesota during the early ’60s never veers off course. Working-class narrator Matthew Garth has always been treated well by best friend Johnny Dunbar’s well-to-do family, particularly by Johnny’s father, Dr. Dunbar. In the town of Willow Falls, the doctor’s wealth and commanding presence position him as a leader to some, but to others—including Matt’s mother—he remains an ostentatious outsider. He treats Louisa Lindahl, a young woman shot by her boyfriend (who later strangles himself while in custody); having “no resources and no place to go,” Louisa recuperates with the Dunbars and stays on to live and work with the family. Matt develops an infatuation for Louisa, but her own plans, about which the reader is never unaware, lead to explosive changes in Matt’s standing with the Dunbar family. Though the novel’s dénouement packs a punch, much about Matt, from episodes relating to women to his trajectory with the Dunbars, is foreshadowed to the point of draining the story of drama. Though Watson’s (Montana 1948) laconic prose fits the setting, his decision to telegraph every narrative turn is disappointing. (Oct.)
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