Friday, 10 February 2017

Book Review: Shotgun Lovesongs - N. Butler

"It’s all been worth it. Every fight, all those years of childish experimentation, the occasional heartbreak, the paltry checking account, the used, old trucks. To have lived with another human being, another person, this man, as long as I have, and to see him change and grow. To see him become more decent and more patient, stronger and more competent—to see how he loves our children—how he wrestles with them on the floor and kisses them unabashedly in public. To hear his voice in the evening, reading books to them, or explaining to them what his father was like while he was alive, or what I was like as a girl, a teenager, a young woman. To hear him explain why our part of the world is so special.” 

I am officially in love with the American contemporary literature that takes place in small rural American towns and that talks about a simple lifestyle, simple values, friendship and love. 
And Nickolas Butler with his debut novel confirms it to me. I loved it!
It is the story of four guys and a girl who grew up together in this small small town in the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin. And it is the story of each of them as individuals, with their successes and failures, with their love and hate for their hometown, with their strong values and hard work.
And it is also the story of their friendship, a friendship that, with some breakups, fights in between, but resists through the years, through the distance, through the fame of one of them. A male friendship mostly, built on few words but strong of the presence and support of each other, when the silences are comfortable and the gestures are more significant than the conversations.
I loved Hank, the farmer, the man that never moved out of Little Wing, the man who married his sweetheart Beth and built a family with her, the man who is strong and yet sweet and lovely. 
Butler writes in a very uncomplicated yet engaging way in my view, he writes about simple life and simple things in a way that makes you want to be there with them, even if there is not really anything special in what he describes. A bit like my beloved Kent Haruf. Highly recommend it if you like the genre!

Overall rating: 9    Plot: 9   Writing style: 9    Cover:  8

Title:Shotgun Lovesongs
Author: Nickolas Butler
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 256
Publication year: 2014

Henry, Lee, Kip and Ronny grew up together in rural Wisconsin. Friends since childhood, their lives all began the same way, but have since taken different paths. Henry stayed on the family farm and married his first love, whilst the others left in search of something more. Ronnie became a rodeo star, Kip made his fortune in the city, and musician Lee found fame – but heartbreak, too.
Now all four are back in town for a wedding, each of them hoping to recapture their old closeness but unable to escape how much has changed. Amid the happiness of reunion and celebration, old rivalries resurface and a wife’s secret threatens to tear both a marriage and a friendship apart . . .
This is a novel about the things that matter – love and loyalty, the power of music and the beauty of nature – told in a uniquely beautiful, warm-hearted and profound way and exploring the age-old question of whether we can ever truly come home.

The Author:
Nickolas Butler was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, raised in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop. He is the author of the internationally-best selling novel Shotgun Lovesongs, a collection of short stories entitled, Beneath the Bonfire, and The Hearts of Men which has already been longlisted for two of France's top literary awards.  He is the winner of France's prestigious PAGE Prix America, the 2014 Great Lakes Great Reads Award, the 2014 Midwest Independent Booksellers Award, the 2015 Wisconsin Library Association Literary Award, the 2015 UW-Whitewater Chancellor's Regional Literary Award, and has been long-listed for the 2014 Flaherty Dunnan Award for First Novel and short-listed for France's FNAC Prix.  Along the way, he has worked as: a Burger King maintenance man, a tutor, a telemarketer, a hot-dog vendor, an innkeeper (twice), an office manager, a coffee roaster, a liquor store clerk, and an author escort. His itinerant work includes: potato harvester, grape picker, and Christmas tree axe-man. His short stories, poetry, and non-fiction have appeared in: PloughsharesThe Kenyon Review OnlineThe LumberyardThe Christian Science MonitorNarrativeSixth Finch, and several other publications. He lives on sixteen acres of land in rural Wisconsin adjacent to a buffalo farm. He is married and has two children.

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