Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book review - Lean on Pete, by Willy Vlautin

I don't spend a lot of time reviewing books, although in some cases, I try to give mention to authors that don't necessarily get as widespread attention as they deserve. In this case, it's as much about helping a musician in his second career as author as anything else. Willy Vlautin, who recently published his third book Lean on Pete, leads a double life as lead singer of the rock band Richmond Fontaine. I've seen the band play live once, and honestly have never really gotten into them, but I think more than anything, I respect the artistic output of Vlautin and try to support such artists when I'm able.

Lean on Pete follows 15 year-old Charley Thompson on a number of life-changing journeys. The story begins with Charley and his single father living in Portland, but progresses quickly as his search for employment finds him working for a racehorse owner, who owns, among other horses, a relatively successful racehorse named Lean on Pete. The story moves quickly and tends not to dwell on any one situation for an inordinate amount of time. Rather, I think the pace is very appropriate in depicting the actions and perceptions of a 15 year-old boy making decisions about situations well beyond his years.

Vlautin's writing tends to explore the lives of quite troubled individuals, and this book is no different. His previous books The Motel Life and Northline fit very well along with Lean on Pete, and none of them have an abundance of feel-good moments. The writing is clear and moves fast, such that you can probably finish the book in a day, and likely will want to as you follow Vlautin's troubled characters through plenty of tough spots in their lives.

When I saw Richmond Fontaine live about four years ago, Vlautin's first book had just come out, and he was still much better known for his music. However, in recent years his profile as an author seems to have increased a good deal and he appears to be moving forward with that endeavor with some reasonable success. I most definitely look forward to continued great work from Willy Vlautin.

No comments: