by Nickolas Butler
A few good friends grow up together in Little Wing, Wisconsin. There's Henry, a good man and husband to Beth. He’s the stable and solid one who stayed in town and took over his father’s farm. Lee is a successful musician who travels the world but still longs for the normalcy of his friends’ lives. Then we meet Kip. He’s a successful businessman who just returned to town from Chicago. He's also kind of an asshole who’s always trying to prove something, but usually just sends up pissing people off. Finally there's Ronnie, the rodeo star who was injured and lost some of his mental abilities. He’s sweet and enthusiastic, but sometimes frustrated by his situation.
Though it's set in Wisconsin (not my home state), the descriptions of bitter Midwestern nights or sultry summer days are so achingly familiar. Some of the moments described felt like my own childhood. The point of view rotates between each of the characters, giving us a chance to see the situations through their eyes.
The story is about what we expect from life versus what we end up with. It’s about wanting whatever's on the other side of that fence where the grass is always greener. It's about the complications that life throws our way and the friends that stick with you through it all.
The writing and characters drive the story much more than any major plot point does. We stumble through everyone's lives alongside them, connecting at weddings and other major events, but it’s really about the moments that don't seem big at the time, but later mean everything.
It reminded me and some ways of A Visit from the GoonSquad and in others of The Interestings. It was less precocious than The Interestings and felt more like people I might actually know. It's not as complex as A Visit from the Goon Squad, but has the same feel of overlapping lives with the vein of music running through it all. Considering that I loved both of those books, it’s not surprising that this one worked so well for me.
BOTTOM LINE: This was a fast read for me and I really liked it. The people felt familiar and their lives were so relatable. Perfect to read while sitting on the back porch and sipping a Leinenkugel.
*The audio version was really good!