Shotgun Lovesongs

  • by Nickolas Butler
  • Narrated by Scott Shepherd, Ari Fliakos, Maggie Hoffman, Scott Sowers, Gary Wilmes
  • 9 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Welcome to Little Wing.
It’s a place like hundreds of others, nothing special, really. But for four friends—all born and raised in this small Wisconsin town—it is home. And now they are men, coming into their own, or struggling to do so.
One of them never left, still working the family farm that has been tilled for generations. But others felt the need to move on, with varying degrees of success. One trades commodities, another took to the rodeo circuit, and one of them even hit it big as a rock star. And then there’s Beth, a woman who has meant something special in each of their lives.
Now all four are brought together for a wedding. Little Wing seems even smaller than before. While lifelong bonds are still strong, there are stresses—between the friends, between husbands and wives. There will be heartbreak, but there will also be hope, healing, even heroism as these memorable people learn the true meaning of adult friendship and love.
Seldom has the American heartland been so richly and accurately portrayed. Though the town may have changed, the one thing that hasn’t is the beauty of the Wisconsin farmland, the lure of which, in Nickolas Butler’s hands, emerges as a vibrant character in the story. Shotgun Lovesongs is that rare work of fiction that evokes a specific time and place yet movingly describes the universal human condition. It is, in short, a truly remarkable audiobook—a novel that once listened to will never be forgotten.


Audible Editor Reviews

Editors Select, March 2014 - I’m always drawn to stories told from multiple perspectives (see The Help, Water for Elephants, The Invention of Wings, The History of Love, etc.) and Shotgun Lovesongs kept its appeal throughout, thanks to an intimate look at life, love, friendship, and growing up in small-town America performed by a strong cast of rotating narrators. Not a lot happens in Little Wing, Wisconsin, but its home for Leland, Henry, Beth, Kip, and Ronny – lifelong friends who each struggle with their decisions to stay in the beauty of the farmland or move on to ‘bigger and better’ things. Through heartbreak, hope, regret, and the moments you can only share with the friends who’ve known you forever, Nickolas Butler’s debut truly shines. (And for the music fans out there, Leland’s character – who goes on to become a famous musician – is said to be loosely based on Justin Vernon, who grew up in the area and is best known as the front man for the indie folk band Bon Iver.) —Diana D., Audible Editor


What the Critics Say

"Fliakos and Shepherd ably handle the sometimes plaintive voices of the male characters, while Hoffman carries most of the emotional weight with her redolent vocal talents.... There's no question that all the narrators connect with the characters' emotional journeys." (AudioFile)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Love Song to Home Town

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
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- Mel

Thirty-Something angst

I think our mid-thirties may be the time of our lives (other than our teens) when we are most likely to take ourselves too seriously. Worried about how we have defined and sought success, wondering if we made mistakes and if it’s too late to take them back and start over. That seems to be where the five friends of Shotgun Lovesongs are in their lives. Probably because I am two decades older than they are and have already been through the twenty year college reunion that proved that we all grew older if not wiser, that I was able to find many gentle smiles of recognition as these friends work through the beginnings of their mid-life angst. I did like all of them because they seemed nicely and not so nicely real. There was plenty of humor along with the worries, and Butler was able to infuse small town sensibilities into the narrative as if Little Wing was another character. Sometimes the prose got a bit overdone - like too much frosting on a cake - but I was willing to forgive.

This love song was fine up to the point of The Conflict, when a secret is accidently let out, putting two friends at odds with each other in a way that may be impossible to repair. How Butler chose to resolve The Conflict lost the authenticity of the story. The final scenes, essentially in the final hour of the book, he went a bit off the tracks and I turned off my IPod kind of shaking my head. Perhaps guys really would behave that way and as a woman I just don’t get it. But I’m doubtful. Anyway, a star fell off the rating as the final credits rolled.

3/5s of the narration was excellent – Henry, Leland and Kip being very real and natural. Beth and Ronny tried too hard, like catching an actor in a movie working at staying in character. The harder they try, the more you are aware of the acting. Not awful, but broke the spell enough to drop from 5 to 4 stars.
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- Janice

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-11-2014
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio