American Boy

( 5 )

Overview

We were exposed to these phenomena in order that we might learn something, but of course the lessons we learn are not always those we are taught . . .

So begins Matthew Garth’s story of the fall of 1962, when the shooting of a young woman on Thanksgiving Day sets off a chain of unsettling events in Willow Falls, Minnesota. Matthew first sees Louisa Lindahl in Dr. Dunbar’s home office, and at the time her bullet wound makes nearly as strong an impression as her unclothed body. ...

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American Boy

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Overview

We were exposed to these phenomena in order that we might learn something, but of course the lessons we learn are not always those we are taught . . .

So begins Matthew Garth’s story of the fall of 1962, when the shooting of a young woman on Thanksgiving Day sets off a chain of unsettling events in Willow Falls, Minnesota. Matthew first sees Louisa Lindahl in Dr. Dunbar’s home office, and at the time her bullet wound makes nearly as strong an impression as her unclothed body. Fueled over the following weeks by his feverish longing for this mysterious woman—as well as by a deep desire for the comfort and affluence that appears to surround the Dunbars—Matthew finds himself drawn into a series of confrontations he never expected, the results of which will change his life irrevocably and give lie to his version of the American dream.

Immersive, heartbreaking, and richly evocative of time and place, this long-awaited new novel marks the return of a great American storyteller.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
Starting with In a Dark Time (1980) and with highlights like Montana 1948, Watson has penned some of the best contemporary fiction about small-town America, and his new novel does not disappoint. Teenage narrator Matthew Garth begins his story in 1962, in Willow Falls, MN, where he is enjoying a sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner with the Dunbar family. He and Johnny Dunbar are inseparable, despite their families' disparity in status: Johnny's father is a physician, while Matthew is the only child of a single working mother. Their elegant meal is interrupted when the sheriff calls Dr. Dunbar to the scene of a shooting. The authorities soon bring young Louisa Lindahl, wounded by her boyfriend during an argument, to recuperate at Dr. Dunbar's clinic; before long, Louisa has moved into the Dunbar household. Matthew longs for this seductive young woman from the day he sees her wounded, unclothed body at the clinic. He sees himself as Louisa's rescuer, and a rift soon opens up between him and the Dunbars. VERDICT With his graceful writing style, well-drawn characters, and subtly moving plot, Watson masterfully portrays the dark side of small-town America. Highly readable and enthusiastically recommended.—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO
Kirkus Reviews
Watson's (Montana 1948, 1993, etc.) sixth novel resonates with language as clear and images as crisp as the spare, flat prairie of its Minnesota setting. Matthew Garth's father died when Matt was a young boy, leaving him to be raised, or watched over as he raised himself, by a withdrawn, hard-working waitress mother. But Matt has a second family, the Dunbars, parents of his best friend, Johnny. Rex Dunbar is Willow Fall's most prominent physician, and his passion for medicine fascinates Matt and Johnny, high-school seniors. Dunbar often allows them to follow along as he carries out his practice, always offering instructions about medicine's basics. It is Thanksgiving 1962. Kennedy is president but all that is Willow Falls is evocative of Eisenhower and Father Knows Best. The Dunbars, with Matt, are celebrating when word comes that young Louisa Lindahl has been shot by her boyfriend and has gone missing. The boys are sent to help search. Dr. Dunbar prepares his clinic. Louisa is discovered by other searchers, and when the boys return, Dr. Dunbar has completed surgery. The boys are curious about the nature of a gunshot wound, and as Dunbar lifts the sheet from the unconscious woman to explain his abdominal surgery, Matt catches a glimpse of her breasts. Matt is captivated, and with that, a vivid story of sexual tension, family loyalty and betrayal unfolds. Matt wants Louisa, mysterious and thoroughly erotic, everything high-school girls are not, and since her lover and assailant committed suicide, he believes he can have her. Louisa is also a manipulative opportunist. After she is given shelter by the Dunbars, she quietly sets out to seduce the doctor, determined to "…advance her station in life through imitation and force of will." The introspective, insightful and reflective narrative unfolds from Matt's adult perspective, easily inferred early but not confirmed until the conclusion. A literary tale chronicling the painful struggle required of a boy to birth himself as a man.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781571310781
  • Publisher: Milkweed Editions
  • Publication date: 9/13/2011
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.34 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Larry Watson is the author of seven widely-acclaimed novels, including the best-selling Montana 1948, which was awarded the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, a Best Book citation by the American Library Association, short-listed for IMPAC Dublin International Award, and published in ten foreign editions. He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his family.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2013

    I stumbled upon this book while looking for something else, and

    I stumbled upon this book while looking for something else, and am very glad I did.

    A well-written, quick read.

    I recommend it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 3, 2012

    Solid contemporary fiction

    First off, I am a tough reviewer. So for you who think this deserves a higher rating, keep that in mind. I save 5 star reviews for classics and that level of writing.

    This is a solidly written novel. The story does drag there in the middle and gets too caught up on the whole teen boy sex fantasy thing. But those are the only faults in my opinion.

    Good character development, good dialogue (which is a tough one), believable story and plot. Predictable, but well done wrap up and ending.

    If I could go 3 1/2 stars I would.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2012

    Deve Every man can relafe Classic a Classic American coming of age tale

    Solid simple story of friendship, trying to make sense of the world as a teeenage boy faced with the challenges of fitting in standing out and coping with loss Watson hits the nail on the head thought provoking and heartbreaking men can definitely relate to the protagonists experience

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2014

     

     

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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