IF THERE IS A PERFECT NOVEL, THIS MAY BE THE ONE

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Shotgun Lovesongs
Author: Nickolas Butler
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (2014)
Genre: Novel
304 Pages
Source: Library Copy

Many men will tell you the friendships they make in high school are some of the best of their lives. In this story readers come to know the importance of such friendships. This group of characters from small town Wisconsin includes Lee, the one who becomes a famous rock star, Henry, the local farmer, Ronny, an injured bull rider, and Kip, a commodities trader interested in making money and being noticed, along with a supporting cast of guy friends, wives, and girl friends.

These characters love each other; their secrets and desires ricochet through events, women and disaster, as they try to figure out what they want and how to move toward it. The narrative is likely to reach deep into the hearts of many readers, and certainly many mid-westerners. Neither fierce winds nor bone-chilling cold can move this story from its solid grounding in the fictional small town of Little Wing, Wisconsin.

This writer evokes the spirit and reality of the Midwest as well as any writer ever. Whether a description of Main Street in Little Wing or viewing life from the top of the feed mill, “better than any telescope, better than the planetariums”, or what the famous Lee sees when he returns to his home near Little Wing, “summer grasses and raspberry bushes…yellow-brown in patches”, the descriptions of the town, its parts and the surrounding countryside are deep and pure, a kind of truth hard to come by in fiction. A reader can exist in the landscape and sink into its soft, hallowed ground.

The people are just as true. They fill up the reader as easily as the land. Mexican workers eating huevos rancheros at the kitchen table of an older woman who rents out rooms, Henry’s father milking fifty Guernsey and Jerseys, and city-girl Felicia blowing up at the grocery market are examples. Because small town folks often believe in the possibilities out there in the big world, as well as at home, a reader can believe Ronnie on the Rodeo Trail, Lee’s break through to fame, Kip’s restlessness and Henry’s steadiness. Henry and wife Beth walk fast on Main Street in the Wisconsin winter. In a scene at the café, people and surroundings are so carefully drawn the reader knows almost all there is to know about Little Wing, and there are so many spcific places and people, all carefully painted. This is how a writer shows you the truth and depth of community.

There’s conflict and love running through every strand of this story. The voices of the characters tell it true. It’s a remarkable story––well-told. This novel deserves the highest rating and legions of readers.

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