Friday, January 21, 2011

Lean on Pete (2010) Willy Vlautin

Vlautin's third novel, Lean on Pete is what Carver might have been without the aide of alcohol, cigarettes, spousal abuse, and racism. The novel follows the tragic life of Charlie, a kid who sees his father killed by a girlfriend's jealous boyfriend. Orphaned and broke, this kid takes a job working for a scum-of-the-Earth type, named Del, who races at Portland Meadows. That's where the story takes off.

Vlautin has a voice that is simple, and catchy, and perhaps because it's all from the point of view of fifteen year old Charlie, the language flows through the events in a way a child could understand, but in layers only an adult can fully appreciate. The story is both beautiful and sometimes heart-breaking, and the people Charlie runs into are as real, and as unreal as everything else in the book. None of the characters can be discarded, discounted, or taken too lightly. This is by far the best book I read from 2010.

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