Oh, Willy Vlautin, you're breaking my heart with this book! Horace has big dreams of becoming a boxing champion, but in order to achieve that, he must leave the safety and security of the Reese Ranch. The Reeses treated him like a son for years after Horace's mother discards him. But Horace has a long row to hoe; between his bouts of confidence, there lies deep despondency and an aching loneliness. Vlautin is able to flesh out these characters and the pain they guard inside, and he produces this heartrending story that feels real and urgent. A coming-of-age story that's tangled up with sorrow, family, loyalty, and love, Don't Skip Out on Me is the scraped-raw snapshot of a young life on the cusp of the unknown. Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
From award-winning author Willy Vlautin comes a powerful exploration of identity and loneliness pulled from deep within America’s soul.
“Vlautin writes with patience, tenderness, and a sharp eye toward the subtle things that can wear a person down — the fights we don’t know we’re losing until it’s already too late.” — Los Angeles Review of Books
Horace Hopper has spent most of his life on a Nevada sheep ranch but dreams of something bigger. Mr. and Mrs. Reese, the aging ranchers, took him in and treated him like a son, intending to leave the ranch in his hands. However, Horace, ashamed of his half Paiute, half Irish heritage and that his parents did not want him, feels as if he doesn’t belong there, or anywhere. Realizing he needs to make a name for himself, he decides to leave the only loving home he’s known to prove his worth as a championship boxer.
Mr. Reese is holding on to a way of life that is no longer sustainable. He’s a seventy-two-year-old rancher with a bad back. He’s not sure how he’ll keep things going without Horace, but he understands the boy must find his own way.
To become a champion, Horace must not only change the way he eats, trains, and thinks but also who he is. Reinventing himself as Hector Hildago, a scrappy Mexican boxer, he heads to Tucson and begins training and entering fights. His journey brings him to boxing rings across the Southwest and Mexico, and finally to the streets of Las Vegas, where Horace learns he can’t change who he is or outrun his destiny.
“I’m smitten in the most remarkable way. I’ve fallen from the ground up for Willy Vlautin’s newest character, Horace Hopper, the half-Irish half-Paiute ranch hand turned boxer. Don’t Skip Out On Me is going to make your heart crumple into a little wad of paper and then open it back up into a perfect paper airplane sailing the skies from the hand of a boy. How does a bi-cultural man find a self when he’s been abandoned by his parents? He invents it, that’s how, with his hands, his fists, and that fist-shaped muscle, a heart. No one anywhere writes as beautifully about people whose stories stay close to the dirt. Willy Vlautin is a secular — and thus real and profoundly useful — saint.” Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Book of Joan
“In this climate, a writer like Willy Vlautin seems like one of the last souls left standing on trad-narrative’s working-class battlements. He’s the literary version of a Neil Young or a Tom Petty, bearing a ragged standard for empathy, compassion and decency, defending notions of the story as a sorting office for the soul. In other words, he’s a throwback to a generation of novelists who still championed the underclass and promoted socialist values in fiction: everyone from John Steinbeck to Nelson Algren, or, more latterly, William Kennedy or Annie Proulx.” Irish Times
“Riveting…Vlautin’s colorful characters inhabit both lonely Nevada ranch landscapes and gritty city scenes. Their world is painted with unflinching reality and raw emotion, yet also with compassion and heart, creating a compelling read.” Christian Science Monitor
“Vlautin....strips away our defenses with close-to-the bone prose that leaves us utterly exposed to the tragedy of being alive — and every bit as thankful for those moments of aching humanity before the curtain falls.” Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
Willy Vlautin is the author of The Free, Lean on Pete, Northline, The Motel Life, and Don’t Skip Out on Me. He is the singer and songwriter of the band Richmond Fontaine and a member of the band The Delines. He lives outside Portland, Oregon.