Synopses & Reviews
Award-winning author of The Motel Life
and Lean on Pete
, Willy Vlautin demonstrates his extraordinary talent for confronting issues facing modern America, illuminated through the lives of three memorable characters who are looking for a way out of their financial, familial, and existential crises in The Free
While serving in Iraq, veteran Leroy Kervin suffered a traumatic brain injury. Frustrated by the simplest daily routines, and unable to form new memories, he eventually attempts suicide. Lying in a coma, he retreats deep inside the memories locked in his mind. Freddie McCall works two jobs and still can't make ends meet. He's lost his wife and kids, and the house is next. Medical bills have buried him in debt, a situation that propels him to consider a lucrative — and dangerous — proposition. Pauline Hawkins is a nurse at the local hospital. Though she attends to others' needs with practical yet firm kindness, including her mentally ill elderly father, she remains emotionally removed. But a new patient, a young runaway, touches something deep and unexpected inside her.
The lives of these characters intersect as they look for meaning in desperate times. Heartbreaking and hopeful, The Free is a testament to the resiliency of the human heart. The Free also includes a P.S. Section (additional material in the back of the book) with interviews, insights, and more about the author. Vlautin is the founder of the alternative country band Richmond Fontaine and his debut novel, The Motel Life, has been made into a film starring Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, Dakota Fanning, and Kris Kristofferson.
“Courageous, powerful, and mercifully refreshing, The Free is nothing less than an affirmation, that rare novel about lost souls which dares to be hopeful in the face of despair. Vlautin's hard knock characters will break your heart with their humanity and grace.” Jonathan Evison, author of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving
“Willy Vlautin writes novels about people all alone in the wind. His prose is direct and complex in its simplicity, and his stories are sturdy and bighearted and full of lives so shattered they shimmer.” Cheryl Strayed, The Oregonian
“The Free is a graceful portrayal of an underrepresented side of American life. Willy Vlautin never overreaches, or takes the easy road, and his words have the heft of permanence.” Patrick deWitt, author of The Sister Brothers
“A portrait of American life that is so hard and so heartbreaking that it should be unbearable, but it isn't. The straightforward beauty of Vlautin's writing, and the tender care he shows his characters, turns a story of struggle into indispensable reading. I couldn't recommend it more highly.” Ann Patchett
“This strong fourth novel from Portland singer/songwriter and author Vlautin (The Motel Life) follows three protagonists who find the strength to make the best of difficult situations….Despite the grim trajectory of Leroy's story, Pauline and Freddie's innate decency adds a refreshingly positive note to Vlautin's character-driven novel.” Publishers Weekly
“The Free is another outstanding book from one of America's most underappreciated artists.” George Pelecanos
“Few contemporary western writers tell the truth with the unerring eye of Willy Vlautin, a literary realist whose emotionally charged characters achieve that rarest of goals in fiction-to tell a great story, and The Free is Vlautin at his best.” Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire Mysteries, the basis for A & E's hit series Longmire
“[A] story of our times — about the lack of work, the cost of health insurance, the demonizing of war and the damage to life in the working class. Vlautin writes cleanly, beautifully about the people who hang on despite odds... A fine novel...bounded by courage and kindliness.” Kirkus Reviews
“Willy Vlautin is one of the bravest novelists writing....An unsentimental Steinbeck, a heartbroken Haruf, Willy Vlautin tells us who really lives now in our America, our city in ruins.” Ursula K. Le Guin
In his heartbreaking yet hopeful fourth novel, award-winning author Willy Vlautin demonstrates his extraordinary talent for illuminating the disquiet of modern American life, captured in the experiences of three memorable characters looking for meaning in distressing times.
Severely wounded in the Iraq war, Leroy Kervin has lived in a group home for eight years. Frustrated by the simplest daily routines, he finds his existence has become unbearable. An act of desperation helps him disappear deep into his mind, into a world of romance and science fiction, danger and adventure where he is whole once again.
Freddie McCall, the night man at Leroy's group home, works two jobs yet still can't make ends meet. He's lost his wife and kids, and the house is next. Medical bills have buried him in debt, a situation that propels him to consider a lucrative — and dangerous — proposition.
Pauline Hawkins, a nurse, cares for the sick and wounded, including Leroy. She also looks after her mentally ill elderly father. Yet she remains emotionally removed, until she meets a young runaway who touches something deep and unexpected inside her.
In crystalline prose, both beautiful and devastating, this "major realist talent" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) considers the issues transforming ordinary people's lives — the cost of health care, the lack of economic opportunity, the devastating scars of war — creating an extraordinary contemporary portrait that is also a testament to the resiliency of the human heart.
About the Author
Willy Vlautin is the author of The Motel Life, Northline, and Lean on Pete, and the singer and songwriter of the band Richmond Fontaine. He lives outside Portland, Oregon.