Shotgun Lovesongs, debut novel by Wisconsin author Nickolas Butler
I am interested in books with a Wisconsin connection and was excited to see this debut Wisconsin author speak at the Public Library Association convention in March. Shotgun Lovesongs is set in the small fictional town of Little Wing near Eau Claire and is narrated alternately by Henry, Lee, Ronny, Kip, and Beth who are all in their early 30s. Henry is a farmer and married to Beth. Lee has become a famous musician. Ronny is a former rodeo star and recovering alcoholic who now has brain damage. Kip is a former commodities trader who has returned to Little Wing with his bride Felicia and has restored the mill. These are sympathetic but imperfect people who drink too much and still have some "growing up" to do. This is a novel about self-realization, friendship, and the force of a hometown pulling people back. There are weddings, longings for love, acknowledgements of the importance of friends, offenses taken, friendships renewed, worries about money, difficulty moving on with life, and hijinks. An incident with a jar of pickled eggs ends the book and heals a rift between two of the characters. The title of the novel comes from Lee's first album of songs influenced by the land and people around Little Wing and recorded in a renovated chicken coop, and the novel contains some lyrical descriptions influenced by the land and people of Wisconsin. Butler went to high school with Grammy Award winning Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) who recorded his first album while staying in a hunting cabin in northwestern Wisconsin, and there are similarities to the character Lee. Movie rights for the book have been sold. But don't wait for the movie—read the book because the book is always better anyway.