The 2013 Montana Book Award winner is Let Him Go by Larry Watson, published by Milkweed Editions. This annual award recognizes literary and/or artistic excellence in a book written or illustrated by someone who lives in Montana, is set in Montana, or deals with Montana themes or issues.
Presentations and a reception with the winning authors takes place on April 10, during the Montana Library Association Conference in Billings.
In Let Him Go, Watson is at his storytelling finest. 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.
“Told with Watson’s understated, precise prose, Let Him Go is gripping throughout and will hold readers enthralled through its ending,” writes the Chicago Tribune.
Three honor books were also chosen by the 2013 Montana Book Award Committee:
• Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston, published by Candlewick Press. “I’m Valkyrie White. I’m fifteen. Your government killed my family.” Thus begins this tale of a teenage girl, with a survivalist childhood, who now has a bomb strapped to her chest. The ambiguities and realism of Valkyrie’s story muddy the lines between right and wrong, while giving provocative insight into the mindset of those who see modern government as an unnecessary evil.
Woolston infuses her white-knuckle narrative with a dark, trenchant humor and a keen psychological eye.
• The Lovebird by Natalie Brown, published by Doubleday. A spectacularly original debut, The Lovebird takes us from radical animal activists in Southern California to the vast prairie landscape of Montana, and introduces us to Margie Fitzgerald.
Margie’s increasingly reckless and dangerous actions force her to flee her California college town and seek shelter on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana where she meets a soap opera-loving grandmother, an intriguing, ink-splattered man, and an inscrutable 11-year-old girl-and makes unexpected discoveries about her heart.
• Opportunity, Montana: Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Landscape by Brad Tyer published by Beacon Press. A memoir-meets-exposé that examines our fraught relationship with the West and our attempts to clean up a toxic environmental legacy. The misleadingly named town of Opportunity was exploited first by the copper barons and more recently by affluent exurbanites and well-meaning environmentalists with plans to restore nearby Clark Fork
River to its “natural” state. Opportunity, Montana is about our attempts to redeem the mistakes of the past.