“A debut novel that delves so deeply into the small-town heartland that readers will accept its flaws as part of its charm.” (Kirkus link)
You can almost hear John Mellencamp’s voice in this book! “I was born in a Small Town…” Only that would be a small town in Indiana. This singer hails from small town Northern Wisconsin. A town very much like Mellencamp’s hometown, only much colder.
Boyhood friends, Leland (Lee), Henry, Kip and Ronny are all grown up now. Ronny has is now disabled from a accident and from his hard-drinking days on the pro rodeo circuit. Henry/”Hank” is happily married and running one of those farms whose Scarecrow got rained on. Kip is trying to be the town savior by buying the grain mill and rehab-ing it. And there’s Leland (Lee)–the Big Success of Little Wing. A rock n’ roll superstar. But friendship can be a fickle thing.
“…the safest thing is to become an island to make your house a citadel against all the garbage and ugliness in the world.” (Shotgun Love Songs).
I didn’t have to read where the author was from to know why the voice of this book is so authentic. He IS from “Little Wing”–a Wisconsin boy who knows the language of his state. He knows the small town boys he is writing about. I was impressed with the emotions the men expressed–at least in their thoughts. Lee’s looking out for Ronny, Hank’s love for Beth and their kids, even Kip’s eventual show of emotion all were so real to me–these are, of course, the boys I grew up with (albeit in Central Indiana) and the men I work and live by now in Southern Ohio.
I was shocked to read some truly dreadful reviews of this book. I thought it was great. Yes, like most debuts, it had its weak spots, but none that really affected it to me. It is a guy story, told in a guy way, with guy morality. That seems to be the big gripe among online reviewers. It would be a good movie, too. Brad as Lee. Bradley as Hank and so on. It would do well at the box office. Kind of guy’s Steel Magnolias.
4 full stars. I look forward to reading more from this author.
Shotgun Love Songs by Nickolas Butler