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 book - a novel that once read will never be forgotten.
WE INVITED HIM TO ALL of our weddings; he was famous. We addressed the invitations to his record company's skyscraper in New York City so that the gaudy, gilded envelopes could be forwarded to him on tourin Beirut, Helsinki, Tokyo. Places beyond our ken or our limited means. He sent back presents in battered cardboard boxes festooned with foreign stampsbirthday gifts of fine scarves or perfume for our wives, small delicate toys or trinkets upon the births of our children: rattles from Johannesburg, wooden nesting dolls from Moscow, little silk booties from Taipei. He would call us sometimes, the connection scratchy and echoing, a chorus of young women giggling in the background, his voice never sounding as happy as we expected it to.
Months would pass before we saw his face again, and then, he would arrive home, bearded and haggard, his eyes tired but happily relieved. We could tell that Lee was glad to see us, to be back in our company. We always gave him time to recover before ...
The highlight of the novel is the author's brilliant artistry in completely capturing the transition common to most people: that point when an adult loses the idealism of youth (when everything seemed possible) and realizes that life has followed a trajectory that now limits options. It's the point when people understand some dreams just can't come true and either learn to be content with what they have or decide drastic changes are necessary to achieve happiness.
(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).
Full Review (1314 words).
Nickolas Butler based one of the characters in Shotgun Lovesongs on Justin Vernon, a successful musician with whom he went to high school in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Singer, songwriter and producer Justin DeYarmond Edison Vernon was born April 30, 1981 in Eau Claire. According to his father, he started writing songs at the age of 12, and was part of various bands throughout his high school and college years. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire majoring in Religious Studies and minoring in Women's Studies, all the while continuing to pursue music on the side.
Vernon first teamed up with friends Brad Cook (bass, guitar), Phil Cook (keyboards, banjo) and Joe Westerlund (percussion) in 1997 when the four were sophomores...
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