Shotgun Lovesongs – Nickolas Butler

“Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other folks have lent me.” ― Anatole France

A friend of mine set herself the challenge of reading two books a week this year. Having a small child, this was a brave thing to attempt and, to give her her dues, she made an excellent start. She sought recommendations from friends and, when she visited me late last year, she plundered my bookshelves to make up her reading list for the first few weeks and months. That’s an exaggeration: we discovered our reading tastes were so similar that she had a limited number from which to choose. But she found a few and packed them into her overstuffed cabin baggage. A couple of months ago she was back in the UK and diligently returned my books having enjoyed them very much. Along with them, she lent to me two of her favourite books from her challenge so far.

Over the years, I have been loaned and gifted a number of books (like any book lover, I think I have an in-built book magnet, which accounts for all the books that I have accumulated). When I know they need to be returned someday I can feel them staring back out at me from the shelf, begging to be read next. But sometimes, other books shout louder, often a current bestseller will jump the queue. But it has only taken me about two months for me to dive into the first of the two books that my friend lent to me. Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler proved to be well-deserving of the recommendation.  I haven’t had a lot of time to read lately but this one made me make time to read it.

Set in rural Wisconsin, the debut novel traces the friendships of four young guys, Lee who has hit the big time as a musician, Kip who has returned to Little Wing after financial success in Chicago, Ronny the Rodeo who is recovering from alcoholism and a head injury, and Henry (Hank) who never left his family’s farm. Told from the point of view of each of them over a period of about two years, you are quickly under their skin. I raced through their stories, some which developed more than others, particularly the bond between Hank and Lee, which comes under strain.

By the time I reached the end, I felt like I had for a short while lived in Little Wing in the homes and heads of the characters. Instead as I lifted my head from the final page, I remembered that I was in bed on a Saturday afternoon, having retreated there to read without distraction. I understand why my friend lent this book to me. It’s one that I want others to read too. But I shall be returning the book to its rightful owner: for starters, she put a book plate in the front!

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