Synopses & Reviews
Fleeing Las Vegas and her abusive boyfriend, Allison Johnson moves to Reno, intent on making a new life for herself. Haunted by the mistakes of her past, and lacking any self-belief, her only comfort seems to come from the imaginary conversations she has with Paul Newman, and the characters he played. But as life crawls on and she finds work, small acts of kindness start to reveal themselves to her, and slowly the chance of a new life begins to emerge.
Full of memorable characters and imbued with a beautiful sense of yearning, Northline is an extraordinary portrait of contemporary America from a writer and musician.
"Singer-novelist Vlautin's second novel (after The Motel Life) reads more like a movie treatment than a novel. Allison Johnson, 22, is a high school dropout with a destructive lifestyle (alcoholism, self-mutilation, vituperative boyfriend who knocks her up early in the novel); the only positive influence in Allison's life is her favorite actor, Paul Newman, who appears to her during traumatic moments. Their banal conversations center on Newman's movie roles and how they equip him to continually bail Allison out of her sorry situation. She takes his advice ('get the hell out of Dodge, as they say, and most of all, kid, buck up') and moves from Las Vegas to Reno. But pregnant Allison's life isn't much better in Reno: the cycle of self-loathing continues, and even though Newman implores Allison to turn her life around, the damage is all but done. Much of the writing reads like stage direction, and the abbreviated chapters give the narrative a rushed, slapdash feel." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An unflinching look at people living on the edge in Vegas and Reno. Vlautin turns his frighteningly unsentimental gaze on those drifting through life....Spare and strangely moving." Kirkus Reviews
"The brilliant Northline...recalls the grim beauty of something like Denis Johnson's Angels or Jesus' Son a heartbreaking trip, in other words, into the acculmulation of woe passes for the lives of sad unfortunate people for whom the world is a daily battle ground." Uncut (UK)
"Honest, compassionate...Vlautin is mining a lost seam of American writing that celebrates the dispossessed, beginning with Caldwell and Steinbeck, continuing with Algren and Fante. These are the great writers who stand behind his fiction, just as Hank Williams and Bruce Springsteen stand behind the music of Richmond Fontaine." Independent, UK
"Vlautin is really impressive. His writing is resonant and economic and full of compassion, and although his message is slightly alarming that unless the weak act, they will be the prey of the strong he suggests that no act is too small to start the fight back." Daily Telegraph (London)
"Vlautin's writing style pares everything down to an absolute minimum, so there is almost no fat or excess in any sentence, paragraph or chapter. It is an art that you wish many other authors could achieve....[H]e is an author worth discovering and this is a novel well worth reading." Morning Star
"Heartfelt, despairing novel...The musicality is not an accident: the novel comes with a low-key alt country CD, a perfect accompaniment to the quietly hopeless, never-ending horror of poor America." Financial Times
"Mournful, understated and proudly steeped in menthol smoke and bourbon. Slighter than Carver, less puerile than Bukowski, Vlautin nevertheless manages to lay claim to the same bleary-eyed territory, and surprisingly perhaps even unintentionally to make it new." New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Willy Vlautin is the author of four novels: The Motel Life, Northline, Lean on Pete, which won two Oregon Book Awards, and The Free. He is the singer and songwriter of the band Richmond Fontaine and lives in Scappoose, Oregon.