‘Treasure State’ by Smith Henderson

Treasure State by Smith Henderson, 2015

The magic trick:

Interweaving story about the boys’ father that helps explain the choices they make in the main narrative

Truth be told, the crew never quite makes it to Montana in this one. But we keep it in the Montana Week to honor their goal – and the author’s home state.

The Bonnie and Clyde and Clyde story is fine, but what really makes things work here is the connection to the brothers’ father. The narrative provides backstory, involving the dad, which weaves into the current story – all of which adds motivation and psychology to their decisions and actions. And that’s quite a trick on Henderson’s part. 

The selection:

John went to visit his father in the prison hospital. The old man set up against a pile of gray pillows. There were dark moons under his eyes, and the skin around his mouth was purple and yellow, like he’d been hit there – which hopefully he had. He breathed heavily through cracked and bloodied lips. “Look at you,” the old man said. “ You’re all growed and swole up,” he said, looking at John’s arms.

“You can’t come live with us.”

His father fixed him with an expressionless set of eyes that conveyed nothing but the monstrous obstinacy that had landed him in prison in the first place.

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