Novel: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler, 2013, downloaded from Wisconsin Digital Library.
I first heard about Butler when he was featured in the Wisconsin State Journal in 2007. Butler was working as a coffee roaster in Madison and sending in his poetry to different journals. He ended up winning or being nominated for an award. I do not recall much about the article but the story stuck with me and I recognized the fella's name when the novel came out. Here is the article.
Butler has an interesting life story. One of those Any Job For A Buck So I Can Eat And Write stories. You can look that history up on your own. I heard him speak at a library conference last year and then came to Lake Mills to speak when The Hearts of Men came out.
I enjoyed the book. Which is good since it took me 11 years to get to it. I didn't love the book but the story was decent. Shotgun is an episodic novel told by six characters. All but one of them grew up in Little Wing, a small town south of Eau Claire in central Wisconsin.
Lee became super famous as a rock star. Henry and Beth married and run a farm. Ronny was a rodeo rider until a head injury. Kip made a fortune on the Chicago commodities exchange and moved back with his new wife. Ronny's new girlfriend-then-wife is a stripper.
The stories intertwine with quite a few flashbacks and a little Rashomon action. Spoilers await.
Lee has been in love with Beth for quite some time. He marries a famous actress in Little Wing and marriage ends in less than a year. Ronny's head injury knocked down his intelligence and he dislikes people treating him like a kid or someone helpless. Beth and Lee had a one night affair before Beth's marriage to Henry - Beth and Henry were not even dating at the time. Lee has a drunken low point with his upcoming divorce and tells Henry about it. Henry feels viciously betrayed by both his wife and his lifelong best friend.
Kip came back to Little Wing to refurbish a long shut down grain mill and is losing lots of money on the project. kip told the paparazzi about Lee's wedding so he could get some cash. Kip and his wife ended up getting the cold shoulder for months for what seemed a betrayal.
Hell, now that I think of it, betrayal is an important part of the novel. The theme here is friendship and love among friends. The characters go through life establishing their own families and careers and those needs pull them away from one another. Some of them make poor decisions. Some of them make decisions that were ok at the time - sex between Beth and Lee - that turn almost disastrous a few years later.
People move away from town. Move back to town. Don't return each others phone calls. But, still love one another. I grew up in a place of 100,000 people but now live in a town of 6,000. Fictitious Little Wing is supposed to be 1,000 people. After living small town KS and WI I understand a lot more of what these people are doing and how they act.
1. Gratuitous Red Wing boots and Leinenkugel.
1A. I used to love Leinie's. I should try some again.
1B. I bought a pair of Red Wings last year.
1B1. I've tried different boots over the years but never spent more than a $100 until I got the Red Wings. The soles on hiking boots rub smooth after a few months. Modern black combat boots are as comfortable as sneakers and have long lasting soles but the stitching comes loose. Neither of those styles really allow resoling.
1B2. I've been happy with the Red Wings. I was looking at the so-called "classic" styles that are more everyday casual wear. The local stores only have work boots so I got a pair of standard boot boots. The sole has not worn smooth and the leather is doing dandy.
2. Gratuitous small town bars.
3. barely any other family are in novel. There is only one woman character of note.
4. A perfect Midwestern day... fast moving clouds trailing over a blue, blue sky. And cool fresh air that smelled of rain and Western prairies. What the fuck does that mean anyway? Because other parts of the country don't have blue skies?