As revealed in an earlier entry, I stopped by LaDeDa recently. To call my time in Manitowoc a visit would be an overstatement. It was more like a hit-and-run. Before I could dash to my next location our hostess of books asked me three times if I wanted to read Larry Watson’s newest book, American Boy. Her final query included the fact Watson had written Montana 1948. This tidbit was the tipping point and I left with Watson among my take-aways.
American Boy is told in first-person by Matthew Garth, a high school senior only child of a single mother, set in Willow Falls, Minnesota. Matt’s best friend is Johnny Dunbar, oldest child of Dr. & Mrs. Dunbar, where he is enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner in 1962. Before the night is over a young woman is brought into the Dunbar home, the victim of a gunshot wound inflicted by her loser boyfriend.
Dr. Dunbar allows the boys to watch as he treats the girl, exposing her midriff where the bullet traversed just below the surface. Matt is smitten with this slightly older girl who was “pretty in a way unfamiliar to most of us.” Since she has no family to go to the Dunbar’s take her in and she eventually becomes the doctor’s office assistant.
You have probably guessed where this is going. Two boys. An older girl. Trying to impress the girl. Pushing and pulling to define relationships. By Christmas we witness Matthew operating as an adult, paying the personal price for this growth.
If you are a fan of coming-of-age books I recommend American Boy highly. Even if you are not, Watson is a fine writer and storyteller. Support local writers. Larry Watson lives in Milwaukee. And support your independent book seller.
*******Thanks Steve. "Hostess of books"....funny!
For those of you wondering which book won the great Torn Between Two Covers battle, here's your answer: The Tower, The Zoo, and the Tortoise. The Washington Post called this book "satisfying and heartwarming," and People magazine said "...this book will steal your heart." I agree! More next week.