Let Him Go by Larry Watson

let him goGeorge and Margaret Blackledge know grief.  They lost their son, a promising young man, a few years back.  The son’s  widow marries Donnie Weboy, a man of ill repute, and moves away, taking the Blackledge’s beloved grandson with her.

It is Margaret’s fear that the boy will be raised in an abusive manner; as such, she is determined to bring him back to live with her and George.  The story begins with George coming home and finding most of the family staples packed and ready for a trip.  Margaret is more than ready to go find the child.  George is reluctant to step into a potential wasp’s nest of problems, but goes along anyhow – he loves his wife way too much to let her do it alone.  And so they journey, roughing it at times and staying in some unusual lodgings, but their search is not for long.

Finding the Weboys turns out to be surprisingly easy – apparently, their notoriety speaks loudly for them in the Montana town of Gladstone, situated on the other side of the Badlands from the Blackledge’s home in North Dakota.  George and Margaret actually meet Donnie’s uncle, who offers to take them to the Weboy home place outside of town.  The uncle initially is jovial but odd, and he becomes more unnerving, as do the rest of the Weboy family – in a very scary, climatic way.  George and Margaret are, to say the least, deterred from contact with their grandson.

These people are way too hardy for defeat.

Larry Watson writes a terse tale of people who lead rough lives and are either responsible and good-natured or disreputable and evil.  His characters inhabit an post-World War II American West, and are as rugged as their environment.  I liked his writing very much, and he portrays the Blackledges beautifully as two people who have shared a life long enough to know that an argument is petty and fleeting.

The main challenge of style in Let Him Go is the punctuation – at first, it can be hard to distinguish dialogue, as the author doesn’t use quote marks in the book.  This is a minor quibble, and might be a plus in making the reader slow down and ponder.  Perhaps some slowing down is necessary; once the story gets going, the pages fly.

This is latest Watson has written; here’s the list of his other books that we have here at the library.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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