Shotgun Lovesongs

Hank, Beth, Leland, Kip and Ronny grew up together in the small Wisconsin town of Little Wing.

Hank and Beth married and stayed to farm the land that had been in his family for generations.

Leland became a famous musician and moved to New York.

Kip is a successful commodities trader.

Ronny competed in rodeos all over the country until an accident left him a little too slow to manage anymore.

Now, they’re all back in Little Wing as adults, learning to be husbands, fathers and friends again. But so much has happened that they find it harder than they expected to fit together the way they used to.

“Shotgun Lovesongs” by Nickolas Butler is told through one character per chapter. We hear each part of the story through one of the five friends from their perspective.

This book is comforting, gut-wrenching, alluring and honest. These characters not only show us what it’s like to grow up in a small American town but also make us wish we had, too.

It’s full of raw emotion – weaving the struggles of trying to fit in, falling in love and figuring out how hard it can be to come home again.

No book has ever made me want to move to Wisconsin, but I have to say after reading this one, I’d consider it. The descriptions of the land are gorgeous, and the fierce, nostalgic passion these people have for their town is intoxicating.

Though their lives all went in various directions, they come together again and again like magnets that can’t be kept apart. No matter how many years pass or what happens, they end up back where they began – with each other.

One of them wonders about the girl who got away. One tries to show everyone what a success he is. Another just wants to be allowed to have more, feeling trapped in the small-town existence. Another is content; the only worries are family and the land he works.

“Shotgun Lovesongs” embodies the shiniest ideal of American spirit and history. Small-town dreams, friendships, first loves and family ties. It’ll touch your heart and soul. It may even make you want to move to Wisconsin.

As these five friends find themselves and reconnect, we learn that though it may not be truly possible to come home again, it’s damn well worth a try.

Maybe you won’t end up where you remember, but you may end up where you belong.

Shut up, I’m Reading

Reading is often regarded as a solitary sport. I have heard it referred to as something antisocial people do because they want to escape into their own head. I admit, sometimes that’s true. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t scary loners who wear all black and growl at the sun (except for maybe you twilight fans), but we do like a little quiet time away from all that hoopla out there once and a while.

The rest of the time, I do find it enjoyable to have a warm body nearby keeping me company when I’m reading. A silent one. One that doesn’t kick me under the table and demand I “put that book down!” like I’m doing something rude. Note to world: I’m not being rude. I’m reading. OK, maybe you don’t like that my first instinct upon receiving a steaming cup of java is to whip out my book like a fresh croissant to accompany it, but that is just a reflex. I probably thought you’d have a book too. We’re friends aren’t we?

This week my friend visited from DC and we spent a lot of time roaming around Austin eating, walking, shopping and drinking a lot (and I mean a LOT) of coffee. We probably visited 4 or 5 different coffee shops in the two days we spent together. On the first day we were making our second (or third?) coffee stop and my friend started to roam around the backseat of my car. Why you ask? Because I always have 10-15 books laying about back there, waiting for some lucky person to read them. After all, my car might break down, work might get cancelled, lunch might be solitary, I may have a sudden doctor’s appointment or need to get my oil changed… so I’m always prepared. She sifted through my books and eventually decided on a Harry Potter (excellent choice) and as we were walking into the coffee shop she said “Thats what I love about spending time with you, there’s always coffee/reading time built in.”

I miss that a lot. Not that people in Texas don’t read, but I used to have at least one day a week where we would go relax at a coffee shop (or the common, oh how I pine for you Boston!) on a book date. I feel a little more uni-bomber here because I tend to spend my dedicated reading afternoons alone. I’d stalk someone at the library or sidle up to someone at the local bookstore, but it is often misconstrued. No, I don’t want to sell you drugs, take your picture through a darkened window at night or date you. I just want a reading buddy. (A quiet one.)