Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book-A-Day #22: MONTANA 1948, the novel I most like to give to friends


Milkweed Editions
$14.00 trade paper, available now

Rating: 6* of five because it's truly a perfect read

The Publisher Says: The events of that small-town summer forever alter David Hayden's view of his family: his self-effacing father, a sheriff who never wears his badge; his clear sighted mother; his uncle, a charming war hero and respected doctor; and the Hayden's lively, statuesque Sioux housekeeper, Marie Little Soldier, whose revelations are at the heart of the story. It is a tale of love and courage, of power abused, and of the terrible choice between family loyalty and justice.

My Review: The Doubleday UK meme, a book a day for July 2014, is the goad I'm using to get through my snit-based unwritten reviews. Today's prompt is to identify the novel you most like to give to friends.

This book has a deeply personal connection to me and my life. I've mentioned elsewhere that I have given many copies of this book away, and why. I was given heart, comfort, and guidance by this work of fiction, such as no corporeal person could have given me.

But to consider this as a book, a novel written for an audience by a writer, is to appreciate anew the benefits of craftsmanship and the ungovernable lightning of talent. There are very few books I can give the accolade of "I wouldn't change a single thing" to, and this is one of them. Not one word out of place, not one simile or metaphor ill-used, unused, or overused, nothing could be added without compromising the beauty of the book, and nothing need be removed to clear aside clutter.

If brevity is the soul of wit, it is also the soul of wisdom, and this book is wise, so wise, to its child narrator's painful coming to adulthood. It's also wise to the nature of love as lived from day to day, and how it so often can curdle into acceptance of what one cannot change...but should, or should always strive to, because some things are simply, inarguably, Right.

As a meditation on one's remembered past, this is a crystal clear and unsparing récit; as a story, it's so simple as to be mindless, except that it's mindful of the role of unadorned narrative in making the world a better place.

I would like to know the characters in this novel, really know them, sit in their kitchens and listen to their stories and drink their vile percolated coffee. I loved each of them, yes even the one whose bad deeds set the story in motion, loved them for being real and nuanced and far more vulnerable than most of the real people I know.

I can't simply and blindly recommend this book to you, because it's very strong meat; I can encourage you to read it if you care for justice, the horrible cost of it and the terrifying price it exacts from those it visits; but you will come away from it changed, as I was, possibly for the better but changed. Don't ever ask questions you don't want the answers to...and this book answers some very, very nasty questions with grace and beauty and forgiveness.

My edition's cover, to me the most perfect:

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