Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Book Review


Shotgun LovesongsBook Genre: Fiction, Contemporary 

Book Series: N/A

Released: 3/11/14 by Thomas Dunne Books

Pages:  320 Price$25.99 Hardcover

Links:  Goodreads, Author’s Site

Source: I borrowed this audiobook from my library. 



Book Synopsis:

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 love songs 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. 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. 

My Review:

Book Talk book time for me.  Last month I struck out with my selection of A Visit From the Goon Squad but this month I seem to have hit it out of the park with Shotgun Lovesongs!  I came back from vacation to find several of the books returned already and thought, oh no, they hated my pick again.  Then I see that several other books by this author have been ordered and everyone stopping by my desk tells me how much they enjoyed this book! So yay.

I had not read it yet and was still apprehensive about what I would think about the story because popularity in the community does not automatically mean it will be something I enjoy as well.  It did take me until about halfway through my listen before I realized that I too enjoyed this story.

Not usually a fan of contemporary fiction I selected this book for our book talk for its music theme that fits in with our summer reading program.  I also liked how it was based in an area of Wisconsin that most of my patrons will be familiar with.  The small town lifestyle and relationships of the characters were also things that I thought would be relatable to our group.  I was correct on all of these points.

So, what did I think of the book?  For me, it was the torch that Leland carried for Beth, his best friend’s wife, that won me over.  His love for her and respect for their marriage just broke my heart.  He loved Beth, never stopped, but eventually found a way to be happy for them.  Of course, he almost fucks it up and destroys not only the marriage but his friendship with Henry.

I also enjoyed reading Ronny’s story.  He is the glue that holds this friendship together over the years.  You end up spending much of the book feeling sorry for the man, which was intentional, but I was delighted to see how things ended for him. Finding a happiness that no one expected.

I was a little less enamored with Beth than the boys of this story were.  I wanted her to have more of a backbone and stand up to Henry who spent the second half of the book punishing her for a crime she didn’t commit.  I so wanted her to smack him upside the head and tell him to get his head out of his ass and get over it.  She never cheated on him and his being an ass over a something that happened when they were not together was not fair on his part.

I don’t remember the last friend much.  Kip had more of a supporting role and almost seemed like an afterthought.  We did have one interesting story about his time in Chicago that about broke my heart but other than being there as a catalyst for events involving the other three I don’t feel like I got to know him very well.

My final thoughts on this book are this.  It was a beautiful story. One about friendships and how they change over time.  About love and the one that got away.  Small town life and the rights and rituals that help keep a community together.  A story about finding home and learning to be happy there.

My Rating: 4 Stars