by Willy Vlautin

Willy Vlautin is a member of a band called Richmond Fontaine.  Apparently a literary agent came to one of their shows and was so impressed with Vlautin's lyrics (which are very narrative) that she asked if he had written any books.  Lo, he had, and he sent her a manuscript, which was purchased by HarperCollins.

It isn't often that I see a book like this.  It's simple, the prose is lovely in its lack of artifice, and the story is somehow realist and fabulous at the same time.  It does, with much less effort, what Life of Pi attempted-- it casts a light on the importance of story, imagination and hope in this dismal vale of tears.

The protagonist and his brother are what your average corporate schmuck would call losers-- guys who live from day to day, with no particular investment in making loads of cash or advancing in the social hierarchy.  When the protagonist's brother kills a boy accidentally, the two brothers lurch through a number of incompetent attempts to avoid jail.

The book builds to a genuine redemption, as the trials endured lead the protagonist to realize the value of what he has lost, but can regain-- the love he shared with a prostitute's daughter, a woman he shunned because of the circumstances her life forced upon her.

Throughout the book, the protagonist tells stories, and the stories he tells are the kind of fabulist concoctions that we see on television and in films-- wild adventues replete with coincidence and extreme reversals of fortune.  While his stories are not meant to believed, they comfort his brother as he slides into death, and help him set his priorites.

 --C. B. Coble