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The Hearts of Men: A Novel Hardcover – March 7, 2017
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’Gut-punch of a novel...I keep coming back to Nelson, Butler’s great creation. He is a character of such vivid goodness, such moving and precise sorrow, I don’t think I’ll ever forget him. And in the end isn’t that what we ask of a novel, that it be unforgettable?” (New York Times Book Review)
“Butler captures the rites and rhythms of young manhood in intimate, clear-eyed detail, shifting nimbly between multiple perspectives, several generations, and two wars overseas...a potent exploration of friendship, betrayal, and all the markers of masculinity that can’t be measured by badges and trust falls.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“[A] beautiful story of love and courage...Butler’s storytelling is hypnotizing. Yet every time we’re about to get too comfortable, he reminds us of his powerful talent to cause “the feels” when he lays tiny tragedies at our feet.” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
“A multi-layered, multi-generational mini-epic...Butler delves into a dark, Midwestern, middle-class suburban mentality in the same neighborhood as John Cheever’s Shady Hill and Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Hill Estates.” (USA Today)
“Across three generations and as many wars, this earnest novel explores the ways boys become men and how even flawed men may stand as models for the young... A well-paced, affecting read.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
’Butler achieves a rare triple play here of brilliant characterizations, a riveting story line, and superlatively measured prose, putting him in the front ranks of contemporary American writers of literary fiction.” (Booklist)
“Butler’s latest delves into the meaning of loyalty and friendship, how some rise to life’s challenges while others fail... Fans of Butler’s award-winning Shotgun Lovesongs will welcome this impressive work with an outstanding ensemble cast. Top of the class for Butler on this one.” (Library Journal (starred review))
“Like a great campfire story, The Hearts of Men is epic and hushed in the right places, simultaneously local and universal, and brilliantly, beautifully unspooled. It’s both a love letter to good men of the past and a hopeful cheer for the good men to come.” (J. Ryan Stradal, author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest)
“How Nickolas Butler spans the gaps across several generations of sons and fathers (and mothers) is nothing short of a marvel of storytelling…The Hearts of Men is full of pain, joy, longing, redemption, disappointment, and beauty--in short, all the qualities that distinguish the very best novels on our shelves.” (David Abrams, author of Fobbit)
“The Hearts of Men is a winning second novel, by turns wistful and wise, sad and funny, eminently readable, and always atmospheric. Without a doubt, Nickolas Butler is a young writer to watch.” (Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here and The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving)
“A wry, tender-hearted novel about men: their families and friendships, their vulnerabilities and foibles, their secrets and lies. Part coming-of-age narrative, part meditation on masculinity, part war story, this novel had me spellbound all the way to its riveting conclusion.” (Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and Sweet Water)
From the Back Cover
From the bestselling author of Shotgun Lovesongs, an epic, multi- generational novel of friendships and families intertwined with a beloved Boy Scout summer camp in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.
Camp Chippewa, 1962. Thirteen-year-old Nelson Doughty, social outcast and overachiever, is the Bugler, sounding the reveille proudly each morning. Quiet, reserved, and coping with a broken home, Nelson finds he has more in common with the old scoutmaster than the boys his age who seem to have an endless supply of merciless bullying in store for him. Yet this particular summer marks the beginning of an uncertain and tenuous friendship with a popular boy named Jonathan, who on his part finds he has much to learn from Nelson, not least about how to confront the limitations of his own courage and empathy.
Over the years, Nelson, irrevocably scarred from the Vietnam War, becomes scoutmaster of Camp Chippewa, while Jonathan turns his father’s business into a highly profitable company and marries and divorces more than once. The differences that distinguished Nelson and Jonathan as teenagers percolate into adulthood as both must reconcile the men who they’ve become with the men who they thought they’d be. But the two stay linked by Jonathan’s son and, later, his grandson, both of whom find their way to their own defining summers at Camp Chippewa. And when something unthinkable happens at a camp get-together with Nelson as scoutmaster and Jonathan’s teenage grandson and daughter-in-law in attendance, the aftermath demonstrates the depths—and the limits—of Nelson’s selflessness and bravery.
In beautiful and evocative prose brimming with the same warmth that defined his earlier work, Nickolas Butler’s second novel gives us a sweeping, panoramic story about family and fidelity, the challenges and rewards of lifelong friendships, and the bounds of morality and redemption.
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This young writer has a brilliant future. His first three books are now some of my all time favorites. This new one met my high expectations, and then some.
Every generation has it's issues, and they're not all that different from the problems of one's predecessors. Makes one ponder...
From beginning to tearful ending. Thank you for such an experience,
A great read. I have already ordered another of Butler's books.