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.

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

“I spent all this time building a relationship. Then one night I left the window open, and it started to rust.”

Alphabetical entries line the pages of this book in an exploration of love. Heartbreak, boredom, devastation, tenderness, pure contentment; every aspect of a relationship is explored in bite sized doses. When I first glanced at this book I wasn’t sure if definitions were enough to really create a story I would enjoy, but I admit I loved it from the first page.

“You fell quiet, gestured for me to listen. The sound of the woods, the feel of the air. The wine settling in my thoughts. The sky, so present. And you, watching me take it all in. Naked to the world. The world, naked to us.”

The smallest details of relationships seen to be examined with care and recorded according to their correct word.  Annoying habits. Sweet silent exchanges. Fighting. Families. The feeling of being lost, even when you’re in someone’s arms.

This little gem of a book is a must own for anyone who loves writing filled with beautiful imagery and eloquent moments. I am happy it has a place in my bookshelves.

“Finally, I said. Its over.”

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Love: It will kill you and save you, both

Oh Ms. Oliver, is it your goal in life to break my heart? I read Delirium today because I liked Before I Fall and wanted more. Those of us who are obsessive compulsive readers sometimes cannot help but immediately pick up the next book by an author we’ve so thoroughly enjoyed. Delirium, although quite different from Before I Fall, haunts you with its sad but striking story in a very similar way.

Lena Haloway lives in the controlled society of Portland where people are ‘cured’ at the age of 18 of deliria, or as we call it, love. I was amused how Oliver spins love into a pretty convincing “disease.” Deliria is known to cause anxiety, depression, lack of appetite and insomnia. Even reckless behavior. Romeo and Juliet is a ‘cautionary tale’ that the children read in school to learn about the effects of deliria.

There are fences, guards, night raids and regulators. They can only listen to specific types of music, read approved books, their phone calls are tapped and everything is very carefully watched. Those who have been cured walk through life feeling nothing, caring about nothing. They are matched with a person, marry them, have kids and live out their lives within the system.

Of course there are rebels, they live outside the city’s walls in the ‘Wilds’ and are called invalids.  Lena’s life changes the day she meets an Invalid named Alex. As their relationship progresses, Lena begins to doubt that all the restrictions of their society is actually for their own good.

I once again loved Oliver’s writing, her characters shine with life, humor and emotion. (except you know, the cured ones. They shine with zombie-like creepiness and lack of basic human compassion.) Lena is a character who is good through and through. I couldn’t help but love her (I know, I know, its against the law but still!) I look forward to the next two books in the trilogy and can’t wait for them to come out.

Delirium, is of course, only the beginning, but Lena must make the decision that will shape everything that comes next. She is caught in the classic dilemma between safety and freedom. To do what she was taught is right or to follow her own diseased heart.