A stark tragedy unfolds in Watson’s taut, memorable novel, the winner of the publisher’s National Fiction Prize. During the summer of 1948, a solid, middle-class family in a small Montana town is wrenched apart by scandal, murder and suicide. Narrator David Hayden tells the story as an adult looking back at the traumatic events that scarred yet matured him when he was 12. His pious Lutheran mother informs his father, Wesley, the county sheriff, that David’s uncle Frank, a doctor, has been molesting and raping Native American girls during routine medical exams. Uncle Frank’s latest victim is Marie Little Soldier, the Haydens’ Sioux housekeeper. When Marie dies, presumably of pneumonia, David provides key evidence that implicates his uncle in her murder. Frank is arrested by his brother, who locks the confessed sexual abuser in the basement to save him from the embarrassment of jail. David confronts his uncle’s racism and the evasions and denials his family has constructed to cover up the affair. In crisp, restrained prose, Watson ( In a Dark Time ) indelibly portrays the moral dilemma of a family torn between justice and loyalty; by implication, he also illuminates some dark corners of our national history.
~ Publishers Weekly