Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler (3 out of 5)



I may be the only person on Planet Earth who isn’t bowed over sideways over this title. It has gotten accolades, the cover of this month’s Indie Bound magazine for independent booksellers, and 5 star reviews in print media. I read about it over a month before all the hubbub and the release, and put it on the request list. I borrowed it out Monday and am done by Tuesday night. It is an engaging story that Butler tells, of this small town Wisconsin town and the residents whose lives, whether they care for it or not, intersect in all the ways you imagine they would in a small town.

I guess the fact that the entire time I was reading it I had “Small Town” and “Pink Houses” from John Cougar Mellencamp playing in my head probably didn’t help the love to be overly felt. A small town in rural Wisconsin- Little Wing (yes, like the classic Jimi Hendrix, Skid Row, and Stevie Ray Vaughn song)- is where the lives of the characters intersect. Hank and Beth run his father’s farm. Hank is the anchor of the story, the man who never left his small town roots for the big time, and Beth, well, not only his wife, but someone who has figured in the lives of all of the main characters. I would have to argue for Beth perhaps being the anchor that holds all of the frayed edges of the characters together. Lee is the tortured musician who has won acclaim, but hasn’t won peace in his own head and heart. Kip is the “Gordon Gecko” of the story, the broker who just doesn’t know when to turn off his ticker tape and live an actual life outside of his job. He’s not devious as Gecko was, merely the whim at which my poetic license cannot summon up a better analogy currently. Ronny is the rodeo star, injured and unsure if his injury and pride can bring him back to where he needs to be in his life. There’s a predominant strain of male friendship in this book, and Beth is really the only female who figures in here throughout, and her role- well, quite a role once the entire story is told. It’s the story of shattered dreams, frail and fraught egos, hard love, life letdowns, and everything you would expect in a novel of this scope. Can the fractured lives come together, in friendship, in hardship, and ultimately, in acceptance of the lives that they are living in, or will it all blow apart? 

I liked: the overall story and how easy it was to dive into the character’s lives. I also liked how in-depth the portrayals of small town life were. I also dug the friendships among the men. It is a male-driven character novel, and I haven’t read one in a while, so kudos to Butler for accomplishing that and doing it so well. I also liked how strong of a character Beth turned out to be, despite being the only female in the story. And as lamesauce as it sounds, I did enjoy the cover. It reminded me of a vintage postal stamp, which was a perfect indicator of the book itself. 

What didn’t I like? No fault of the author, but it simply is not the sort of book I normally dig. I really did enjoy the book, but it wasn’t enough for my literary likes and love of quirky human nature novels for me to throw it five stars. There weren’t any whamdinger shockers. It was a stable, well written book that I will happily recommend. It just wasn’t my bale of hay. 



~ by generationgbooks on March 19, 2014.

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