Pick of the Week: Shotgun Love Songs by Nickolas Butler
I was drawn to this book because of its rural Wisconsin setting. I grew up in suburbia, so there’s always been something charming and seductive about small-town life for me. Given our proximity to Wisconsin, it wasn’t hard to imagine the town of Little Wing, the setting of this marvelous book. Shotgun Lovesongs tells the story of four friends who grew up together in Little Wing but went their separate ways: one to ride the rodeo circuit, one to make his fortune on the Chicago commodities exchange, one to become a rock star. Only one man, Henry, stays home and works his father’s farm with his wife Beth, who is loved in different ways by all four friends. The story begins with a wedding that brings them all back together in Little Wing, and what follows is an exploration of the events that have shaped and sometimes broken their relationships. Although all four men are adults, at some level their friendships have not passed beyond adolescence, and it takes some painful lessons to cause each of them to finally and fully grow up.
This book is a beautiful study of love and friendship, but it’s also a love song to small-town America. Butler, who lives in rural Wisconsin, captures the Midwestern landscape, its sensibility, its poverty, with gentleness and respect. I haven’t lived in a small town, but I can tell you this: you will feel for these characters. As each one tells you their story, your heart will go out to them and not come back for a long time. Shotgun Lovesongs is a story that is moving, warm, and heartfelt.