BKMT READING GUIDES

Montana 1948: A Novel
by Larry Watson

Published: 2007-05-25
Paperback : 186 pages
10 members reading this now
14 clubs reading this now
5 members have read this book
?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 ...
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Introduction

?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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Discussion Questions

1. What motivates Frank Hayden's final act? (The author has characterized it as both a selfish and a selfless act.)

2. Late in the novel, Gail Hayden changes her attitude. She no longer wants her husband to continue the course of action that earlier she encouraged him to follow. What causes her to change?

3. What does Wesley Hayden mean by his admonishment not to "blame Montana"?

4. A great deal of attention is paid to locating Bentrock (a fictional community) on the map. What role does the setting play in the novel?

5. Whose story is this? Wesley's? David's?

6. Who is the moral center of the story?

7. How does prejudice play into the story?

8. Why is Wesley Hayden especially concerned when his son David tells him that Len McAuley might "know something"?

What would the outcome of the story have been had David's father publicly arrested his uncle? Would things have turned out better? Worse? Would you have done the same thing as Wesley had it been your family?

Was there any justice for the crimes committed by Uncle Frank?

Most of the novel's action takes place in 1948. Why did the author choose that year? Could the events occur today?

In what ways is the novel about privilege and the abuse of power?

What is the effect of David Hayden telling this story so many years after the fact?
Discussion questions provided courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "We use this book with our 9th grade students in my school. I"by Debkeen (see profile) 11/24/08

This book is great as a discussion starter: making choices when neither choice is a good one, right vs. wrong, family loyalty, racial injustice, tolerance, etc.

 
  "Hard to put down, great writing. Quick Read."by hgress (see profile) 08/23/07

 
  "Young boy in Montana 1948, is witness to an event that changes his family's lives. Told from his point of view."by ajkhhunter (see profile) 07/19/07

Excellent book to discuss. Brings up a lot of interesting conversations about race, small town life, and elitism.

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