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Shotgun Lovesongs: A Novel Paperback – February 3, 2015
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, March 2014: When the four men at the core of Shotgun Lovesongs came of age together in Little Wing, Wisconsin, the highest point of the tiny farm town was the abandoned mill. Now in their thirties, Ronny’s trying to start a life after rodeo and booze, Kip has come back to pour stock-market millions into reviving the mill, Hank’s followed his father into farming, and Lee’s indie-rock career--built on his legendary DIY recording in a Little Wing chicken coop--has shot him into another social stratosphere. Nickolas Butler’s debut novel was inspired in part by the life of his high school friend Justin Vernon, who took the 2012 Grammy for Best New Artist as Bon Iver, and despite its occasional flirtation with stereotypes, his characters and their friendships have authentic souls. Through fights, reconciliations, and celebrations, Butler’s polyphonic story swells to a full-throated anthem about the expansive possibility born of belonging to a deep-rooted community, a kind of America we want to believe might welcome us all home. --Mari Malcolm--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
The hearty Midwest, which thrums and beats through tiny Little Wing, Wisconsin—an Anytown, USA, if there ever was one—assumes the whole soul of Butler’s fetching debut, if only to end up proving how unassuming it is. Chapters are voiced alternately by five longtime friends: there are Henry and Beth, married and tethered to their farm and kids; gold-hearted Ronny, babied by the others after a spell of rough living as a rodeo king; Kip, who’s restoring Little Wing’s decrepit old mill after pulling down millions in Chicago; and Lee, the newly successful musician whose haunting first album lends the novel its name. In bars and under stars, through this small group of those who’ve never left, those who regret leaving, and those who wish they had the town in their rearview mirror, Butler examines just what it means to be from a place—and if sharing that from-some-place is more a reason to stay in touch, or a reason not to. Readers can feel the winter cold on the other side of the neon sign and hear the peanut shells crunching underfoot. --Annie Bostrom --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Five characters share the narrative in alternating chapters. Hank – who inherited his father’s farm, Beth – Hank’s wife, Lee – an international music artist, Kip – a successful broker and Ronny -an injured rodeo star. These people speak and we think that we know them, who they are and what they dream of, but each are capable of surprising us as the story unfolds.
I have read few books that feature male friendship, and it was something that I really enjoyed about Shotgun Lovesongs. The bonds this group formed in childhood remain intact through a decade of physical separation and sporadic contact, but when they reunite in Little Wing they learn none of them are the boys they once were and their relationships with each other are now complicated by the men they have become.
The community of Little Wing in rural Wisconsin is vividly portrayed. I could easily imagine Kip’s mill looming over the town, the car park full of battered pick-ups, weathered men leaning on the bar in the VWF hall and tractors traversing the the open farmland.
While tempers may flare, the conflict in Shotgun Lovesongs is largely personal and the drama is subdued. The pace of the story is measured and thoughtful, emphasising emotion over action. I found the writing and dialogue to be simple and honest yet descriptive and affecting.
Shotgun Lovesongs is an understated yet heartfelt novel, an ode to friendship, to love and to family. It is a story about finding your way home, where ever that may be.
Set in a small town near Eau Claire close childhood friends marry each other, raise families, or leave town to make their fortunes in the big city but keep returning to the small town, drawn by the real friends they made in childhood, sometimes to recharge their batteries, sometimes as an ego thing, to shown their chums that they have outdone the pitiful future allotted to them in their senior class yearbook. But where there are life-long friendships there are accidents, resentments, betrayals and missteps unforgiven that festoon the road to happiness that lies before them. And, of course, woe to the outsider, who tries to spread money around to capture some of this childhood happiness. In this town, that is reserved for the natives.
But one book they must not study too closely at Iowa is Aristotle’s On Poetics that explained what a writer must do and what he mustn’t. There is no particular plot, per se, in this book but a collection of short stories only loosely connected to each other such as one might write as homework for tomorrow’s class. Obvious consequences of previous commitments are blithefully ignored in the welcoming beckon of new opportunity. A dairy farmer leaves for a long weekend and we hear more about what he’s packing for the trip than we do about who will milk the cows. In fact, so far as we know, he owns a peculiar breed of dairy cattle that do not need to be milked. Too many things happen in this book seemingly by chance, not as convincing consequences. Aristotle would be fuming.
But there is a kindness toward all characters that subsumes this book, where no one is glorified or demonized, making this a feel good read even if the corrective surgery seems awkwardly done or leaves scars. This is a book that will make you feel blessed for your friends, and, if you are lucky, a loving spouse, and a book that can do that is a good book.
It's the story of small-town school friends and how their relationships continue into their mid-30s in spite of some becoming very successful, and others ending up middle-of-the-road or even down-and-out, success-wise. There seems to be a gravity to the relationships that they developed in elementary school and high school that keeps bringing them back to their small town and back into each others lives for better or worse.
This is the first book that I've read by Nickolas Butler. The style reminds me of a younger, hipper Richard Russo (I've read three or four of Russo's novels before).
Most Recent Customer Reviews
seemed to slow to a crawl when I was...Read more