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Lean On Pete

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  1,513 ratings  ·  270 reviews
Fifteen-year-old Charley Thompson wants a home, food on the table, and a high school he can attend for more than part of a year. But as the son of a single father working in warehouses across the Pacific Northwest, Charley's been pretty much on his own. When tragic events leave him homeless weeks after their move to Portland, Oregon, Charley seeks refuge in the tack room o ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published September 27th 2011 by Harper Perennial (first published 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,596)
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Trixie Fontaine
I loved Motel Life so when I saw this Willie Vlautin prominently displayed at the library I quickly snatched it up, forgetting that I'd planned to avoid it because it sounded WAY TOO DAMNED SAD. I made it through though, but crunched it into basically one sitting because it was more difficult to live with than Motel Life (because the main character is so young, I think) but again, it wasn't as unbearably depressing as I'd feared.

The other reason I read it quickly? Because it's amazing. Even when
Review from Badelynge.
Willy Vlautin is the frontman of a band called Richmond Fontaine who also writes novels. Lean on Pete is his third such book. It introduces us to Charley Thompson, a 15 year old boy who lives an unsettled life with his dad. Pretty much left to his own devices and uprooted from his previous life in Spokane, Charley tries to make the best of things. He pines for his old home and friends while doing his best to stock a fridge that is as neglected as himself. His dad isn't a ba
On the bright side, Charlie (main character) never got molested and never prostituted himself. pshew.

Willy won!!!

yay, willy!
Just could not go the distance with this one- too depressing and the plodding writing style drove me nuts (he went here, he went there, he showered, then he ate). Gah!
LEAN ON PETE is told from the perspective of 15 year old Charley, whose story---while extreme---is in no way unbelievable. He grows up with one parent (his dad) after his mom leaves when he's young. His dad moves around a lot and when we meet Charley they've just arrived in Portland. Often left alone, Charley finds his way to a racetrack, where he starts working for Del Montgomery (a flat-out asshole) and bonds with Lean on Pete, one of Del's horses.

With a voice that is on its surface straightfo
I saw this book prominently displayed at my local independent bookstore a couple of weeks ago. I read the back cover and discovered that the writer lives in Oregon, and that the story is mostly set in Portland. So I was instantly intrigued. I then scanned excerpts of the positive reviews found on the first page of the book and then wrote the name of the book down on the back of a business card I had in my money clip. A couple of days later, I checked out this book and another Willy Vlautin book ...more
Bruce Greene
Willy Vlautin is a Portland phenomenon. That is, he is the lead singer in Richmond Fontaine, a local band, a writer, and a product of anything is possible in Portland. Recently this book won an Oregon book award much to the surprise of many. His writing is sparse, even simple, but it grows on you like a new coffeehouse or a corner pub. Vlautin has the race track in his blood. That's where my attraction first came. His characters are the lowest of the low. They are always drunk or about to get dr ...more
Mark Stevens
Willy Vlautin’s style is calm and clear-eyed. Zero flash. The prose is dry-eyed.

The opening lines: “When I woke up that morning it was still pretty early. Summer had just begun and form where I lay in my sleeping bag I could see out the window. There were hardly any clouds and the sky was clear and blue.”

The narrator is fifteen-year-old Charley Thompson. He has just moved to Portland to Spokane with his father. they are starting over. They are in a rundown house next to a trailer park. There a
Nigel Bird
There are books that I can’t really fully explain in terms of why they were so enjoyable or had such an impact. ‘Lean On Pete’ is one of them. I’m going to try and unpick that for myself in this here in this review.
The work seems really simple in the structure as a whole and in the clean style of writing, yet the impact it had on me was far more powerful than this simplicity might normally allow.
Before the novel begins, there’s a quote from John Steinbeck:
‘It is true that we are weak and sick an
Jan 05, 2014 Ainsley rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: folks who like Steinbeck and stark prose and don't care for adjectives or happy endings
Recommended to Ainsley by: Allison Hickey (former boss)
Shelves: read-in-2014
I would never ever ever have picked up this book if it hadn't been given to me by a thoughtful boss when I was sick, and if I hadn't felt guilt-ridden and obligated to read it (18 months later).

And that would've been my loss. Because this is a gritty, harrowing, comically depressing, good book.

Vlautin's austere, flat style really worked for me in depicting the numb, trauma-shaped mind of 15 year-old Charley. Having known folks who had to resort to survival skills in their teens, his portrayal
i'm already a big fan of willy vlautin's, so i was pretty excited to dig into his next novel. and again, he could not disappoint. vlautin is kind of the mark twain of our times... a simply great storyteller. he doesn't fluff up his novels with big words or epic phrasing. he keeps it simple and beautiful and tells us the story of the human condition.

particularly this character, charley, reminds me of huck finn. charley's used to being on his own, takes pretty good care of himself, and manages a
Featuring a fifteen-year-old boy with a string of hard luck, the new book by Willy Vlautin mines a similar storyline as his first two books and it's just as good. You may think it would be tiring to always write about the depressing lives of people but Willy does it so well, giving his readers a shining thread of hope to hold on to throughout. At times the book had the feel of a classic kid's adventure ala Huck Finn and I admit I did tear up a few times while reading it. The Portland setting at ...more
This was a simply beautiful book. 15 year old Charley Thompson has just one thing he wants to do, and that is play football in the next school year. His father leaves him alone at home most nights and Charley gets a job at the race track with a cranky unscrupulous horse racer. When his father dies after a fight, leaving Charley an orphan, Charley runs away with Lean On Pete, a horse he has gotten fond of, and who has a foot disease causing it to lose more races than it wins. Charley's only posse ...more

I had this book on my re-reads shelf as I remembered enjoying it first time I read it. It was still as good second time around, perhaps better because this time I did not rush, every word was savored. In a nutshell the story focuses on a teenage boy (Charley) who having become fatherless and homeless runs away with a race horse (Lean On Pete) he has been caring for at a local livery. It becomes apparent to Charley that as Lean On Pete is approaching the end of his ru

The writing style is incredibly simple, probably the most simple of any book I've read since childhood. It perfectly captures the realistic voice of the narrator, a sporadically-educated 15-year-old boy called Charley. Yet despite or perhaps because of the simplicity, it drew me into the story and was even beautiful in places.

As well as the simplicity, Vlautin manages to convey the idea of a teenage narrator perfectly through Charley's obsessions - unimportant things are told in great detail (mo
This was a well written book. I enjoyed the story a lot. It is about Charley Thompson, a 15 year old who has raised himself. His dad is not too dependable, leaving Charley alone for periods of time and moving him around frequently. When Charley's dad is fatally injured, Charley gets a job at the Portland, Oregon quarter horse race track. An owner/trainer named Del allows him to live in the tack room and gives him a job taking care of his horses. Charley is particularly fond of a horse named Lea ...more
Charley is 15 when his no-good father uproots him from Spokane to Portland and settles into a house in Delta Park near Portland Meadows racetrack. Charley simply wants to be a normal teen and attend high school and play football but finds he has to survive when left alone for days without money or food. One day he stops by Portland Meadows stables and ends up working for Del, an abusive horse manager and owner of the broken down racehorse named Lean on Pete. After disaster strikes, Charley runs ...more
OK, I've been saying this for a while now, but WHAT IS UP WITH THE MASS AMOUNT OF NOVELS ABOUT CHILD SAFETY. I really cannot handle them. Who can read plots that are based on progressive imperilment of children?? It's horrible.

I thought Lean on Pete would be triumphant, would show me the inside of a 15-year old mind, would teach me something new. Instead it is the story of how many cans of spaghetti-os he steals in order to survive. His strategy for defense when he goes to a guy's trailer to bea
Looking over the reviews of Willy Vlautin's Lean on Pete, I can easily see why I didn't pick this book up on my own. On the one hand, you have a vocabulary of sentiment: a boy befriends a down-and-out horse destined for the glue factory, is orphaned when his father has a romantic fling with a woman married to a man with a temper, and ends up taking a road-trip across the American West in a heart-wrenching coming-of-age story. On the other hand, you have a veritable glossary of terms I normally ...more
A boy 15 years of age moves with his dad to Portland. They have plans he wants to get into a football team at a school there and his father is working a new job as a fork lift operator and a little relationship with a woman who already has a boyfriend a very big Samoan.
The lad has a bit of an emptiness you find from reading this story, due to his mother dumping him with his father at one years old without concern or care for anymore contact.
He has been through many hard times and has many more t
Jun 18, 2012 Elizabeth rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dive bar devotees
Shelves: 2012
What a beautifully written, melancholy story. Fifteen-year-old Charley is the main character who kinda has no luck. His Dad means well but is living a hard ass life himself and they struggle by traveling to small-time towns in the Pacific Northwest. We all end up in Oregon and that's when tragic becomes the tone of the day. Charley is young and eating everything in sight. He's pretty industrious for a kid, gets himself a job within the circle of the horse racing. But we're talking bottom of the ...more
The point-of-view character is Charley Thompson, 15 years old. He is the loneliest, most disadvantaged, bravest, most innocent, ingenious, and eternally hopeful survivor I've come across in literature in a long time. He has something in common with the "Noble Savage" and yet he is not wild. He is amazingly civilized (except for table manners) for all the neglect and disinterest he has suffered. He lived with his dad after his mom--someone named Nancy-- abandoned him as a baby. The relationship b ...more
Strangely, I'm not sure whether to give this one three stars or five. It's bleak, rather unrelentingly so, and populated by people who scrap and scrabble for everything they get, many of whom operate within rather foggy moral codes. However, there's something true to life about these characters that mostly worked for me when reading them. Del's a pretty predictable asshole, but fun to hate and occasionally surprised me; Ray is just a little complicated--trying to do the best thing for his son, b ...more
John Curd
A pretty sad story about a 15 year old boy Charlie, who suffers the worst kind of fate by losing his father in a horrible incident, and never having known his mother, sets off to support himself while traveling to find his long lost aunt, with an old race horse named 'Lean on Pete'.
Charlie has both good luck and bad, while trying to survive all by himself. Although good at heart, he trusts everybody, and often pays the price for that trust. The story takes some interesting turns, and reading it
John Owen
I am a big fan of Willy Vlautin. This book is not his strongest but it is good. It seemed to go on a long time with not much development. The boy is struggling to stay alive and fed but there are episodes that a very much like things that have already happened. Still, it's worth a read.
Willy Vlautin is a natural born story teller with an unparalleled knack for creating memorable characters. In this, his third novel, he continues to carve out his niche of telling the stories of the broken and lonely who fall through society's cracks. The manner in which he tells the story of a 15- year-old boy and his friendship with an all but broken down horse, shows how Vlautin has perfected his craft and has matured as an author. Stark and dark as things may get, he never falters to deliver ...more
Willie Vlautin has an optimistic view of humanity, which should be weird statement considered how filled with violence, drug and alcohol abuse, sadness, anxiety, grinding poverty, accidents, and injury his books are. But, read him and you find a very fragile but still there humanity to his portraits of the inhabitants of the third world regions of America’s New West. Vlautin is the bandleader of Richmond Fontaine a band in between the Midwest grimness of Uncle Tupelo and the high desert yearn of ...more
Lean on Pete is requisite reading for anyone who wonders about America's so-called "bad kids." Vlautin deftly portrays a 15 year-old protagonist who leads a hard life, a life that easily lends itself to explaining why children become "bad apple" stereotypes. Vlautin's stark portrayal of how all too many children live enables readers to gain patience for and an understanding of kids for whom survival in the raw is the reality. In addition, Lean on Pete contains wise character insight across the b ...more
This sparce, well paced book is heartbreaking and inspiring. It is more than a story of a teen and a horse, it's about the twists and turns of a life that no one would want their kid to go through as the boy, Charley, tries to figure out how to survive and protect the horse he loves. Vlautin's words are like an abstract painting that at once shows the pain but never grovels and shows you streaks of hope.

In a world where teens are reading about vampires and laser battles in outer space, it is inc
Another suberb slice of American dirty realism from a writer beginning to rank alongside authors such as Carver, Ford and Wolfe. It's a simple tale of a young boy's longing for love and companionship in a really bleak world but what sets it apart is the beauty of the writing. Vlautin's muscular prose is utterly devoid of pretension and you become completely engrossed in his tale of the young boy,Charley, and his relationship with a washed-up racehorse 'Pete'. The sort of book that reminds you ho ...more
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Willy Vlautin (born 1967) is an American author and the lead singer and songwriter of Portland, Oregon band Richmond Fontaine. Born and raised in Reno, Nevada, he has released nine studio albums since the late nineties with his band while he has written four novels: The Motel Life, Northline, Lean on Pete, and The Free.

Published in the US, several European and Asian countries, Vlautin's first book
More about Willy Vlautin...
The Motel Life The Free Northline Jockey's Christmas Willy Vlautin Collection

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