This time we are back with a book I received for Christmas. One of these unclassifiable novels that you can’t really explain: you’re never really sure where it’s trying to take you, yet you enjoy the journey and can’t help but wonder about your own life along the way.
It’s called « Shotgun Lovesongs » and it’s American author Nickolas Butler’s first novel. Set in the small town of Little Wing, Wisconsin, it tells the intertwined stories of four childhood friends, Henry, Lee, Kip and Ronny. The four men grew up together in the small rural town but have grown to chose very different paths of life. Henry has married his high school sweetheart and settled down, Ronny is a former rodeo star, Kip had a successful career in the big city, while Lee is a world famous musician. As weddings bring them all back together in their hometown, they each in turn tell us about their own life and what growing up in Little Wing has meant to them, how the place and their relationships have shaped them as men.
Nickolas Butler writes his characters with an unusual tenderness. As we learn to know them better, we gently grow to love them. Each imperfect, flawed and so deeply human character. Secrets come out, friendships are challenged, relatioships questionned, the general mess of life happens and all the time the focus is on these things that really matter in life. The places we go, the people we meet, who we are at heart. Love, loyalty, home, music, nature, forgiveness… The story is told with a beautiful simplicity, completely free of over dramatisation and catchy vulgarity, no cynicism, just a deep compassion and humanity. And so we travel through life in Little Wing, Winsconsin, where as anywhere else in the world, nothing is ever just right or wrong, where who we are and what we show the world rarely coincide and where in our clumsy, unnoticed way, we still manage to build beautiful relationships and make a huge difference in the world of the people around us with the smallest gestures.
On the way, you’ll learn that you can hear the sunrise, that friendships can be saved over the theft (or not) of giant pickled eggs jars and that wherever home is, we all need some kind of roots to keep us grounded.
The book, will probably make you want to call your friends and hopefully feel kinder towards the world and yourselves. After all, we all mess up at some point, but life goes on and it’s what we learn from it that really defines us.
I really enjoyed reading Shotgun Lovesongs, even though I kept wondering where the plot was going. Maybe that was the good part, Nick Butler is not trying to manipulate our emotions, just showing us life as it is, without judgement. It is an easy read and a welcome break from the frantic rythm of our daily routine.