Thursday, May 1, 2014
Book Review: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
Author: Nickolas Butler
Hank, Leland, Kip and Ronny were all born and raised in the same Wisconsin town — Little Wing — and are now coming into their own (or not) as husbands and fathers. One of them never left, still farming the family's land that's been tilled for generations. Others did leave, went farther afield to make good, with varying degrees of success; as a rock star, commodities trader, rodeo stud. And seamlessly woven into their patchwork is Beth, whose presence among them—both then and now—fuels the kind of passion one comes to expect of love songs and rivalries.
Now all four are home, in hopes of finding what could be real purchase in the world. The result is a shared memory only half-recreated, riddled with culture clashes between people who desperately wish to see themselves as the unified tribe they remember, but are confronted with how things have, in fact, changed.
There is conflict here between longtime buddies, between husbands and wives — told with writing that is, frankly, gut-wrenching, and even heartbreaking. But there is also hope, healing, and at times, even heroism. It is strong, American stuff, not at all afraid of showing that we can be good, too — not just fallible and compromising. Shotgun Lovesongs is a remarkable and uncompromising saga that explores the age-old question of whether or not you can ever truly come home again — and the kind of steely faith and love returning requires.
This book was like a mix of Edwin Arlington Robinson and Larry McMurty in my opinion; like Richard Cory meets The Last Picture Show. I have no idea why I was reminded of Richard Cory, but I was; maybe it was the writing style?
This book is about four men, Henry, Lee, Kip, and Ronny, who have been friends with each other and devoted to their friendships. since they were boys. It is written from the multiple viewpoints from each of the men and Henry's wife Beth.
This book is filled with weddings - but I think the real committment is between the four friends. They are friends for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or worse. Some of them are better friends than others, but these men have an unshakable bond that is tested between the pages of this story. All four men are vastly different, from solid and dependable salt of the earth Henry, yuppie business man big city dreams Kip, damaged pure of heart rodeo cowboy Ronny, and fey dreamer musician fringe dweller Lee, yet maybe this is their strength.
I loved the midwest setting. While I am not from Wisconsin, I am just over the lake in Michigan, and the descriptions of their lives and locations were so familiar. I have sat around bonfires drinking beer with these people, visited these landscapes, walked down similar streets. Butler's descriptions were dreamy and evocative, if sometimes just a little too much.
I really really enjoyed this book. The only thing keeping it from straight up love is the end. I hated the end. It was bad, and disappointing. It wasn't enough to keep me from hating the book though- I still really liked it, and I told my husband he should read it too. Overall, this book is definitely worth reading. You just might hate the end.