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The Free by [Vlautin, Willy]
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4.3 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Length: 288 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled Audible Narration:
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* There are a number of musician-novelists turning out fine work in both fields, but singer-songwriter Vlautin (he performs with the band Richmond Fontaine) is clearly at the head of this multitalented group. From The Motel Life (2007) through Lean on Pete (2010), he has chronicled, in unsparing, unsentimental prose, the lives of bighearted working-class folk on the wrong side of the economic spectrum. His fourth novel returns to the same terrain, but the ante is upped a notch here as he focuses on the lives of three people in small-town Washington State who face insurmountable obstacles but do so with remarkable grace under pressure. Leroy Kervin is a severely injured veteran of the Iraq War, confined to a nursing home, who lives in an alternate world that is every bit as dystopian as real life; Pauline Hawkins is a single woman who works as a caregiver in the home where Leroy lives and who attempts to save another patient, a heroin-addicted teen in danger from abscesses caused by dirty needles; Freddie McCall, the night man at Leroy’s group home, works two jobs but is slowly, inevitably losing everything in his effort to support his daughters, living in Nevada with their mother. At times, reading the heartbreaking, interlocking stories of these circumstance-ravaged souls can almost seem unbearable, but just when you’re ready to put the book down in despair, Vlautin delivers a moment of not hope exactly but unvarnished, aching humanity that takes your breath away. There are no winners here—and certainly no conventional happy endings (only an occasional, fleeting break in the cloud cover)—but, most important, and this is Vlautin’s point, there are no losers, either. --Bill Ott


“Courageous, powerful, and mercifully refreshing, The Free is nothing less than an affirmation, that rare novel about lost souls which dares to be hopeful in the face of despair. Vlautin’s hard knock characters will break your heart with their humanity and grace.” (Jonathan Evison, author of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving)

“The Free is a graceful portrayal of an underrepresented side of American life. Willy Vlautin never overreaches, or takes the easy road, and his words have the heft of permanence.” (Patrick deWitt, author of The Sister Brothers)

“The Free is another outstanding book from one of America’s most underappreciated artists.” (George Pelecanos)

“Willy Vlautin’s magnificent novel The Free is as raw as it is beautiful, as brutal as it is honest. But despite the difficult truths of his intertwined tales, Vlautin’s characters will lift you up with their quiet compassion and profound dignity.” (Ivy Pochoda, author of Visitation Street)

“Brilliant and beautiful...what a gorgeous book. There are so few writers out there with such ambitious humility.” (Sarah Hall)

“Few contemporary western writers tell the truth with the unerring eye of Willy Vlautin, a literary realist whose emotionally charged characters achieve that rarest of goals in fiction-to tell a great story, and The Free is Vlautin at his best.” (Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire Mysteries, the basis for A&E's hit series Longmire)

“Willy Vlautin writes novels about people all alone in the wind. His prose is direct and complex in its simplicity, and his stories are sturdy and bighearted and full of lives so shattered they shimmer.” (Cheryl Strayed, The Oregonian)

“This strong fourth novel from Portland singer/songwriter and author Vlautin (The Motel Life) follows three protagonists who find the strength to make the best of difficult situations….Despite the grim trajectory of Leroy’s story, Pauline and Freddie’s innate decency adds a refreshingly positive note to Vlautin’s character-driven novel.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A portrait of American life that is so hard and so heartbreaking that it should be unbearable, but it isn’t. The straightforward beauty of Vlautin’s writing, and the tender care he shows his characters, turns a story of struggle into indispensable reading. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.” (Ann Patchett)

“...a story of our times-about the lack of work, the cost of health insurance, the demonizing of war and the damage to life in the working class. Vlautin writes cleanly, beautifully about the people who hang on despite odds.... A fine novel...bounded by courage and kindliness.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Willy Vlautin is one of the bravest novelists writing.... An unsentimental Steinbeck, a heartbroken Haruf, Willy Vlautin tells us who really lives now in our America, our city in ruins.” (Ursula K. Le Guin)

Product details

  • File Size: 629 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (January 27, 2014)
  • Publication Date: January 27, 2014
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #924,004 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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