Sunday, March 30, 2014

(29)Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Shotgun Lovesongs

Pages: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: March 11, 2014


Little Wing Wisconsin is a small farming community outside of Eu Claire.  Not unlike thousands of other small communities in the Midwest, nestled among the rolling hills and dairy farms, Little Wing has a gas station, a VFW, and an abandoned mill with grain silos.  Little Wing has it's own unique characters including the bartender who used to serve the school lunches and the twins who look like they belong on the Packers defensive line.  Among those characters are four guys who have been friends forever.  Hank is the one who never left and is still trying to make the family farm a success.  He married his high school sweetheart and they have two kids.  Kip has recently moved back to Little Wing from Chicago and has bought the mill with plans of turning it into the social and commercial hub of Little Wing.  His big visions might be too big for Little Wing.   Ronny is the ex-rodeo star and an alcoholic.  It was during a drunken episode that Ronny had an accident that left him a little "slow".  He may never leave Little Wing again, but his friends will always look out for him and that means keeping him from drinking.  And then there is Lee.  Lee is the one who left to follow his dream of music.  He returns to Little Wing for Kip's wedding a world famous rock star.   Since they were little boys their friendship has been the most important thing for all of them.  Now they are adults with adult problems and adult issues.  Will their friendship stay strong through it all?

I have to say that Shotgun Lovesongs is one of those books that I had to digest after I finished reading it and my conclusion is that Shotgun Lovesongs is a wonderful book. The author is so descriptive with the Midwest small-town feel that it took me back to my own hometown in Iowa.  I don't think there has been an author quite so successful with his descriptions of the Midwest lifestyle. I loved the way he described the way they all listened to the farm reports on the local radio station,  the farmers gathering around trucks in town after having their morning coffee, and the abandoned mill in the center of town.  In recent years, my own hometown has tried to turn the abandoned mill in the center of town into something more than just an eyesore. I could really relate to everything about Little Wing and I think that is why I enjoyed it so much.  The friendship between the guys was fascinating in it's own right.  Most books I read are about the friendships between women, so it was unique to read about these four friends.  Especially when one of them is so famous and almost schizophrenic in his lifestyles. In Little Wing Lee lives in an old country school house that he converted and he drinks beer at the VFW.  Away from Little Wing his life is documented by the paparazzi and his world includes the wealthiest, most famous people. Because the author uses all four boys as narrators, you really get a chance to get in his head. And here is an important thing to note, the author grew up with the lead singer of Bon Iver, Justin Vernon.

Bottom line, whether Shotgun Lovesongs is a bit auto-biographical or not is up for debate.  What is not debatable is that Shotgun Lovesongs is a wonderful book about four friends in the heart of America. It is one of those books to read slowly so to let it digest and fill you with warm feelings for four guys from Wisconsin.

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I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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