Saturday July 27 at 5:00 PM Willy Vlautin will give a presentation on Don’t Skip Out on Me, a beautifully written story of a young man’s coming of age with the pursuit of a dream that takes him away from the people and place he loves. People living on the margins, on the knife edge of life tend to be the subjects of Willy Vlautin’s novels. He gives them a clear, strong voice, inviting the reader to walk for a few well written pages in the other person’s shoes. Vlautin treats his characters with compassion and respect.
Don’t Skip Out On Me is populated by unforgettable characters facing life with grace in tough situations, the story is one that will stay with you. Mr. Reese lives in the back of beyond, in a rugged part of Nevada eking out a living as a sheep rancher. At 72 the work is rough and the challenges unending. Shepherds hired to watch the flock succumb to the months of loneliness, forsaking the sheep in their care, they sink into depression. Mr. and Mrs. Reese took in a young boy, Horace, part Paiute, part Irish, and came to think of him as they would have a son. They watched him grow up, watched him struggle with feelings of abandonment from by his parents, and understood when he felt the need to strike out on his own. There are many things Horace likes about ranch life, he is fond of the animals, cares about the Reese’s deeply, and is good at the work. Despite the sadness of leaving this isolated home, Horace wants to make something of himself, needs to feel that he counts, and is determined to make his mark as a boxer, to be like the many heroes of his youth. Abandoning the mountains of Nevada, he journeys to Tucson then Mexico to pursue a dream in a dangerous game. This haunting story is so beautifully told. The Resses are such admirable people; kind to their animals, struggling despite their age to hold onto a way of life that is fast disappearing. Horace is easy to care about, a gentle natured young man trying to achieve a sense of worth. Willy Vlautin writes stories that touch the heart.
The Free, Vlautin’s last book is particularly apt for our times. You can’t go through a Willy Vlautin story without at least a few “there but for the grace” moments where you see the slippery slope that claimed the characters was steep and hard to avoid. Freddie had a good life going, a mortgage free home he inherited, a marriage and two daughters, then that slope got him and now he is deep in debt, not keeping his head above water, working his day job at the hardware store and a night job as care taker at a group home. Leroy did what a lot of young men do, answered his country’s call for soldiers. The Middle East changed everything, now he lives in a group home a galaxy away from everyday reality, lost to his loved ones. Pauline works hard as a nurse, she has a deep reservoir of compassion she keeps veiled by a curtain of reserve, a young girl struggling with life on the streets and drug addiction tugs at her heart. Their stories will converge and as they do Vlautin skillfully intertwines a greater truth. The reader will care for these characters, admire their pluck, and wish them a safe harbor.
Vlautin’s earlier novel, Motel Life, Set in Reno, tells the story of two brothers, Frank and Jerry Lee, who live in cheap motels until a tragic, drunk driving, accident puts them on the run. Their belongings are meager, their claim on life tenuous. The story has been made into a well-regarded movie starring Kris Kristofferson, Emile Hirsch, and Dakota Fanning.
Lean on Pete, won big at the Oregon Book Awards, winning both the Ken Kesey Award and the Reader’s Choice Award. It is set mostly in Oregon and tells of a lonely teenager, Charley, who moves with his Dad from Spokane to a rental house in the Delta Park neighborhood of Portland and takes a part time job from an unsavory trainer at the race track. His only friend is Pete, a race horse on his last legs, treated poorly by Charley’s boss. P0-The boy and the horse run away, but the world is not kind to run away teenagers and erstwhile, over the hill, race horses.
Vlautin is multi-talented, he is also lead singer and songwriter for Richmond Fontaine, their music has the same haunting quality found in Vlautin’s stories. Northline, an earlier novel about a woman, the choices she made, and the future she fights to hold onto, includes a CD by Richmond Fontaine.
Author events are a perfect way to spend an evening. We will have refreshments and drawings for prizes. Please call 541-593-2525, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by to sign up to attend. The events are free and lots of fun.