Synopses & Reviews
Hank, Leland, Kip and Ronny were all born and raised in the same Wisconsin town — Little Wing — and are now coming into their own (or not) as husbands and fathers. One of them never left, still farming the family's land that's been tilled for generations. Others did
leave, went farther afield to make good, with varying degrees of success; as a rock star, commodities trader, rodeo stud. And seamlessly woven into their patchwork is Beth, whose presence among them — both then and now — fuels the kind of passion one comes to expect of lovesongs and rivalries.
Now all four are home, in hopes of finding what could be real purchase in the world. The result is a shared memory only half-recreated, riddled with culture clashes between people who desperately wish to see themselves as the unified tribe they remember, but are confronted with how things have, in fact, changed.
There is conflict here between longtime buddies, between husbands and wives — told with writing that is, frankly, gut-wrenching, and even heartbreaking. But there is also hope, healing, and at times, even heroism. It is strong, American stuff, not at all afraid of showing that we can be good, too — not just fallible and compromising. Nickolas Butler's Shotgun Lovesongs is a remarkable and uncompromising saga that explores the age-old question of whether or not you can ever truly come home again — and the kind of steely faith and love returning requires.
"Butler uses multiple narrators to tell the story of a group of friends, born and raised in Little Wing, Wis., in this affecting but precious debut novel. The book opens with Hank, who became a farmer and stayed in the small town to raise a family with his wife Beth. Lee, the indie rocker who made it big but regularly comes back to Little Wing, has his say, along with Kip, who traded commodities in Chicago but has moved back. And Ronnie is a little 'slow,' damaged by rodeo riding. Their voices and their memories create a rich, overlapping narrative that is, at bottom, a love letter to the Midwest and its small, mostly forgotten towns. The characters are in that restless period of their early 30s: Hank and Beth have a family, but both long for something different (including more money); Lee gets married and divorced and wrestles with fame (the title of the book refers to a bestselling album of his); Kip is trying to write the next chapter of his life. The author romanticizes the landscape and the notion of community as if such ideals were limited to small town, agrarian dreams. More seriously, his characters are too similar all of them too lyrical and too insightful. Butler's prose is often beautiful, and the narrative churns along well, but the book just isn't convincing enough to get the reader to buy all the way in. First printing: 150,000 copies." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"There is also a profound empathy for the characters and the small-town dynamic that the reader will likely share, an appreciation for what 'America was, or could be.'" Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Nickolas Butler ripped my heart out with rare honesty and good old-fashioned unapologetic love. A book that makes you want to call old friends. A writer who makes you feel more human than you thought possible." Matthew Quick, New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook
"Nickolas Butler has written a Midwestern masterpiece and has done for the modest splendor of verdant farmlands what Larry McMurtry did for the brutal beauty of small-town Texas." Ambert Dermont, author of the New York Times bestseller The Starboard Sea
"This is a novel about home, and home is how the book feels." Josh Weil, award-winning author of The New Valley
"An unswervingly bighearted and compelling novel about an indie rocker made good and his best friends back home in Wisconsin...a soaring, meditative chorus of voices. And its absolutely beautiful." Dean Bakopoulos, author of the New York Times Notable Book Please Don't Come Back from the Moon
"You will be moved to laughter and tears, plugged in to a melody that brilliantly shares the story of all our lives." Benjamin Percy, Pushcart Prize-winning author of Red Moon
"A beautifully written, heartfelt novel about young men in the Midwest grappling with the slipperiest bits of life. Read Shotgun Lovesongs with caution — these guys will stay with you for a while." Katie Crouch, New York Times bestselling author of Girls in Trucks
"Hooray for this warm, wise, bighearted book." Emily Jeanne Miller, author of Brand New Human Being
"What a cracking book. Full of heart, full of compassion, full of characters who have you rooting for them from the very first page."Shelley Harris, author of Jubilee, short-listed for the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize
"Impressively original." The New York Times
"Sparkles in every way. A love letter to the open lonely American heartland A must-read." People
"The kind of book that restores your faith in humanity." Toronto Star
Welcome to Little Wing.
It's a place like hundreds of others, nothing special, really. But for four friends all born and raised in this small Wisconsin town it is home. And now they are men, coming into their own or struggling to do so.
One of them never left, still working the family farm that has been tilled for generations. But others felt the need to move on, with varying degrees of success. One trades commodities, another took to the rodeo circuit, and one of them even hit it big as a rock star. And then there's Beth, a woman who has meant something special in each of their lives.
Now all four are brought together for a wedding. Little Wing seems even smaller than before. While lifelong bonds are still strong, there are stresses among the friends, between husbands and wives. There will be heartbreak, but there will also be hope, healing, even heroism as these memorable people learn the true meaning of adult friendship and love.
Seldom has the American heartland been so richly and accurately portrayed. Though the town may have changed, the one thing that hasn't is the beauty of the Wisconsin farmland, the lure of which, in Nickolas Butler's hands, emerges as a vibrant character in the story. Shotgun Lovesongs is that rare work of fiction that evokes a specific time and place yet movingly describes the universal human condition. It is, in short, a truly remarkable book a novel that once read will never be forgotten.
About the Author
Nickolas Butler was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and raised in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. His writings have appeared in: Narrative Magazine, Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review Online, The Progressive, The Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the Iowa Writers Workshop, he currently lives in Wisconsin with his wife and their two children.