Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

In Butler’s debut novel, we find the tale of a small town called Little Wing in rural Wisconsin.  The story is told by a group of life-long friends and alternates between five points of view: Hank (the nice guy who stayed to take over the family farm), Lee (the now ridiculously successful rock star who always comes back to Wisconsin to recharge), Kip (the friend who never really felt at home in Little Wing who has now moved back from Chicago in an attempt to resurrect a decrepit local business), Ronny (a former professional rodeo who is now a bit slower than normal after an unfortunate alcohol induced accident) and Beth (Hank’s wife and friend to Lee, Kip and Ronny).  As the book unfolds, we find that Lee has returned home early from an international tour in order to sing at Kip’s wedding.  But old habits die hard and soon the group of friends is wondering why they were ever close to begin with. 

Shotgun Lovesongs is as much a love song in honor of Wisconsin as it is a tale of friends who struggle to stay close years after they go their separate ways in life.  Descriptions of the land and seasons connect all of the stories in a way that almost makes the thread appear stronger than the fabric it is sewn onto.  Butler’s love for Wisconsin is clearly channeled through that of Lee’s character; his prose lush and inviting.  A longtime fan of Kent Haruf’s depictions of small town life in the Colorado plains, this book invoked for me a similar heartfelt ode to Wisconsin in its treatment of people and place.  Those looking for a book about life in a small Midwestern town or even a story about life-long friends will find plenty to enjoy in Wisconsin novelist Nickolas Butler’s Shotgun Lovesongs.