Synopses & Reviews
Larry Watson's previous fiction evoking contemporary Western small-town life has won him awards, a dedicated readership, and unqualified critical praise. Now he has written a novel that envelops the rich emotional terrain of his beloved Montana in a mystery that is both unexpected and unforgettable.
After a nighttime accident at the bottom of Sprull Hill in Bentrock, Sheriff Jack Nevelsen is compelled to try and protect a part of his hometown that even a hero would have trouble saving -- its innocence. For most everyone in the community would agree that June Moss, the quiet girl who had just graduated from high school, and Leo Bauer, the principal of Bentrock Elementary and a married man like Jack, had no business heading out of town together.
As Jack sets out to unravel the mystery of their deaths, he begins to create a story to shield his town, a lie that will reverberate throughout an entire community, and into the shadows of his own heart.
"Morally and emotionally complex, the writing assured....Readers of Montana 1948 will find themselves on familiar ground." Nancy Pate, Chicago Tribune
"Once more, Watson's prose and characterizations are as tightly wrought and fast-paced as a cowboy's lariat, twisting and turning in unexpected directions, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats." BookPage
"Haunting....One of the most irresistible novels of the year." Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
"There's something eminently universal in Watson's ponderings on the human condition, and it's refracted through a nearly perfect eye for character, place, and the rhythms of language." Chris Faatz, The Nation
"Larry Watson is one of those good writers few people know about, a writer whose work is worthy of praise." Los Angeles Times
"The prose is often lackluster, a flat contrast to the melodramatic events it recounts, and the secrets at the heart of the plot turn out to be contrived and unconvincing." Publishers Weekly
"Powerful in its evocation of awkward rural lives lunging for any sort of consummation...this frequently haunting portrait of a doomed man is an unlikely but compelling blend of Appointment in Samarra and A River Runs Through It." Kirkus Reviews
"White Crosses is filled with plenty of period detail that helps set the tone of a presumably more innocent era....Watson is convincing not only in his evocation of this rural society but in his multilayered portrait of...a man trapped by circumstance." The New York Times Book Review
"[I]f this daring, demanding, occasionally brilliant novel lacks the immediate impact and simple eloquence of Watson's earlier books, it is no less worthy of attention." Bill Ott, Booklist
After a mysterious car accident occurs, Sheriff Jack Nevelson is compelled to try and protect a part of his hometown that even a hero would have trouble saving its innocence.
About the Author
Larry Watson was born in Rugby, North Dakota, and raised in Bismarck. The winner of numerous literary awards, he won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, The Mountains and Plains Bookseller Association Regional Book Award, and his novel Montana 1948 was named one of the Best Books of 1993 by both Library Journal and Booklist. He is also the author of In a Dark Time, a novel, Leaving Dakota, a collection of poetry, and Justice, a book of short fiction. He is a recipient of a National Endowment of the Arts award in fiction. Larry Watson teaches English at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point.
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Discussion Points
- The motives behind human behavior are seldom simple or singular. What motivates Jack Nevelsen to act as he does? What about other characters in the novel?
- The novel's action takes place in 1957. Could it have happened in the 1990's?
- The 1950's are often characterized as a buttoned-up, repressed decade. In what ways can White Crosses be read as a novel about repression?
- What role does the community of Bentrock play in influencing the behavior of various characters?
- Jack Nevelsen concocts a lie because he believes the truth will damage his community. What is the source of his belief? Does it come primarily from his knowledge of the town and its citizens or from his own character? From what you learn of the town, is his belief justified?
- Telling a lie seems to release something in Jack Nevelsen's nature. What is it? Why does it?
- Much of the novel is concerned with Jack Nevelsen's perceptions, which are wrong almost as often as they are right. What are examples of both his accurate and inaccurate perceptions?
- Through the course of the novel, what aspects of his own personality is Jack Nevelsen forced to confront?
- How might the relationship between Jack and Nora Nevelsen be described?
- Why does Jack Nevelsen suspect his wife of having had an affair?
- How would you characterize the lie that Jack Nevelsen devises? Is it naive? Desperate? Evil?
- In the classical Greek tragedy, the hero, through pride and arrogance, brings about his own downfall. Is this true about Jack Nevelsen?