Let Him Go
Watson’s latest tale of longing and desperation returns readers to the familiar surroundings of the mid-20th century American West. Margaret Blackledge mourns the loss of her son, James, who died from being thrown from a horse. His widow, Lorna, and son, Jimmy, lived with Margaret and her husband George, until Lorna caught the eye of a handsome traveler who promised to take her away from the small, nowhere town of Dalton, North Dakota. Margaret saw Donnie Weboy, Jimmy’s stepdad, being abusive, and is willing to go to any lengths to retrieve her beloved grandson from her daughter-in-law’s new family. In a road trip that tests love and loyalty, George accompanies Margaret across the Badlands and into Montana.
Watson’s chilling, spare prose neatly paints a picture of fear and suspicion, between Margaret and George as well as between the locals and outsiders in the little towns they pass through on the way to Gladstone, Montana, where Margaret thinks Lorna has landed. The main cause of this fear is exactly what stands between Margaret and access to Jimmy: the notorious Weboy clan, an entire family of ne’er-do-wells, known for being violent, manipulative, and dangerously unpredictable.
Margaret’s determination to take Jimmy back to Dalton creates several tense scenes between the characters, making for gripping reading, and, indeed, late-night page-turning to see how the situation is resolved. Even the minor characters are well-drawn in this heart-wrenching story, where love may mean having to take drastic action, or heroically letting go of what’s most precious. In Watson’s world, “belonging” is never going to happen, and trying to change one’s circumstances is just asking for trouble.