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There was substantial buzz about this book in our local press because author Nickolas Butler, is a hometown (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) lad. For me, there was little to no risk in using a credit on "Shotgun Lovesongs" because I knew, if nothing else, it would be fun to read about the setting while comparing the novel's plot to facts about the life and times of Justin Vernon & Co. I wish I was impressed. I wish I could buy fifty copies of this novel and send it to far flung friends and family who ask if I ever see Bon Iver, "like at Target, or something..." While I did enjoy the book's setting and local flavor, I can't say it's anything dazzling - but maybe that's fine. Butler writes well. He's downright poetic at times. But, he's young and his characters are young and their problems and feelings are young and therefore the story seems to lack the depth or weight needed to engage anyone except his demographic - or those hungry for more Bon Iver back story. Narrators did well except for an occasional cowboy-like accent when, trust me, it's way more like "Fargo" around here. So, there you have it. "Shotgun Lovesongs" is a good solid effort. If you enjoy the local scenery.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Shotgun Lovesongs takes a real human look not only at four guy-friends that grow up together in a small mid-western town, but what *home* means. That pull and push away, safe but suffocating, "place where everybody knows your name," and how it fits inside of us. The friends each strike out on a different path: leaving to find their voice, build a career better than they could have had if they'd stayed, drawn to a bigger life, staying and carrying on a legacy. Throughout their journeys, the four friends, and Beth, the girl that had a connection to them all, nurture each other and repel each other, and draw each other back together...home again.
The friends gather to attend a wedding in their home town. Each looks back nostalgically, narrating sections of the book from their point of view up to the wedding, when the events become current tense. Butler works the town into the traits of each of his characters, like an entity that molds and shapes who they become, then brings the story full circle proving that home is a place in the heart.
Butler's writing is at times poetic. There is an almost peaceful beauty to the writing, an honest and respectful voice redolent of hard-worked land and salt of the earth people. Though there is also a Big Chill / high school yearbook feel to the book, with plenty of capers, laughs, and tragedies that accompany life, the story doesn't rely on a catastrophic event to re-unite the characters. It is a slow and steady gurgling stream that gently flows by and through the seasons. [The buzz associated with the release of this book is the connection between author Butler and the Indie-folk band founded by Justin Vernon, Bon Iver; Butler went to high school with Justin Vernon. A fact I saw in every press release.]
The inherent problem with creating several voices from one head is -- that they all come from one head. The characters take on similarities, whether that is because they are all creations of Butler -- or all creations from Little Wing, Wisconsin -- is debatable. Either way, the audio narration could have benefitted from differentiating the voices. With similar thoughts and characteristics, even with a full cast, it was sometimes difficult to tell one character from the other, thus the 3 *'s.
I enjoyed this listen. It wasn't a grab-you-by-the-throat listen, I wasn't hanging on to hear what happened next, and I won't take away new wisdom, but I didn't want to put it down . It was a warm cozy blanket, curling up with your back against a tree on a blue-skied day and watching a peaceful stream -- recalling your own safe places, fond memories, and good friends. A poetic, peaceful stroll.
"Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home..." John H. Payne
22 of 28 people found this review helpful