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3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  1,097 ratings  ·  153 reviews
Fleeing Las Vegas and her abusive boyfriend, Allison Johnson moves to Reno, intent on making a new life for herself. Haunted by the mistakes of her past, and lacking any self-belief, her only comfort seems to come from the imaginary conversations she has with Paul Newman, and the characters he played. But as life crawls on and she finds work, small acts of kindness start t ...more
ebook, 224 pages
Published September 27th 2011 by Harper Perennial (first published 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,616)
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Will Byrnes
Vlautin combines a hard look at some of society’s fringe members with a whimsical touch that makes it all go down much easier. Allison Johnson is in her twenties, with an abusive, skin-head boyfriend, Jimmy, a bad alcohol dependence and not exactly the highest opinion of herself. When she discovers that she is pregnant, Allison heads for Reno, desperate to get away from Jimmy, wanting to give birth there. She knows she is not up to raising a child, so gives it up for adoption and builds a small ...more
Northline by Willy Vlautin is the kind of book that makes me wonder if I will ever truly love a book again, or if I'm destined for reading purgatory, where everything gets three stars on Goodreads: Not quite bad enough to ditch it in the toilet tank at a truck stop, but not good enough to dangle it over someone's head, taunting "You know you want to read it!"

This one stars Allison Johnson, a high school drop out with an abusive boyfriend who dabbles in white supremacy, brands her with a swastika
disclaimer in the first 2 paragraphs of this review:

This is a book that was better than his first book and maybe not as good as his third book will be.
He's stories are rich in plot and character and strong in realistic dialog.
Here is an author that rarely gets spoken of w/o his band being mentioned. so here's the mention, I recommend the following songs by Richmond Fountaine:
Barely losing
come to think of it, those are all from the same albu
This small book is very potent. The main character, Allison, is only 23, and facing a bleak future. To escape an abusive boyfriend, she moves from Las Vegas to Reno. Allison struggles throughout the book. She suffered a trauma in the past, and we learn how that continues to haunt her. She's an alcoholic, and we know that children and youth in their early adolescence can develop this disease. But she has a strong inner core. Though her mother and sister, her only family, are pretty indifferent to ...more
Jamie Rose
I sort of want to go and live in Vlautin's beery night-time off-neon desert soda can America and I want to soak in the no-hope sad/sweetness. That is if it feels like this.
John Owen
Vlautin has a deceptively simple writing style and a really good grasp of important details. This is a simple story of a girl who drinks too much, has an awful, abusive boyfriend, and just is downtrodden in every way. Vlautin has you understanding her tragic situation and seeing how she occasionally encounters nice people.

You really want to see better things come her way.
Nigel Bird
After reading Lean On Pete a short while ago, I had to get another shot of Willy Vlautin.

This fix came with the title Northline and it got straight into my nervous system in the same way that happened with Pete.

Allison has a drink problem and that’s the least of her worries. She has a drink problem to help her to cope with the world (‘She’d calm down first. Calm down as much as the $17.70 in her wallet would let her, and then she’d decide where to go.’) and has picked up a boyfriend who really n
I know Willy Vlautin from his great alt.Country band Richmond Fontaine, 'Post to Wire' and 'We Used to think the Freeway Sounded Like A River' are tremendous albums; and I was skeptical whether he would be able to convert his, admittedly literate, lyrics into satisfying prose, but Vlautin makes the form his own immediately, so much so you can as easily class him as an author in a band as a singer who writes.

Northline is a distinctly depressing novel, a unflinching look at an American underclass
I love Willy Vlautin's writing. Totally straightforward, unpretentious stories that rightly get compared to Carver. His last two books were set in Reno, and are about dead end people who you care about because they really want to be better than the alcoholics and fuck-ups that they've become in their early 20s. There's no romance to their rootless lifestyle, just a sadness that's real without being depressing. His books are heavily dialog based, which I think is a real skill too..the conversatio ...more
Jun 03, 2008 camilla rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to camilla by: Bonnie Mccullough
Shelves: read-2008
This book was exhausting. The story of a young woman living in Nevada working crappy jobs at casinos, getting drunk every day, and trying to get away from her brute of a boyfriend. I appreciated the writing, it sets the scene of the desert and the monotonous depressing lifestyle well. However, I was frustrated with how weak the female protagonist was. I felt a little better when I read the author interview in the back and he said he hated writing all the sex scenes where Allison is either forced ...more
Mar 08, 2008 Steve rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Steve by: PCFH
Shelves: read-in-2008
Vlautin knows how to create compelling characters, and he has skill writing dialog. This was an easy read, which surprised me because his characters are troubled and dark. His main character is especially interesting: Allison struggles with alcoholism, and panic attacks, and low self-esteem. She's made some bad choices in love and career, too. But she manages to find connections with other people who have their own problems and complications. Her inner conversations with an imaginary Paul Newman ...more
I'm trying to make my ratings more realistic. Not every book I like should get five stars!

You can tell that Willy Vlautin isn't an accomplished novelist, but there is certainly talent with room for growth. Some of the writing and storyline seem a bit juvenile, but it does clean up at points.

What's interesting with Vlautin is that the tone of his writing doesn't fit with any particular era--I feel like, except for the small revealing details, this book could take place decades ago and still be qu
This is a character-driven novel, looking at a year in the life of a lonely Nevada waitress, on the run from her psychopathic boyfriend. Willy Vlautin is also a musician, and unusually, this book comes with its own soundtrack. 'Northside' reminds me of an independent movie, or a song by Tom Waits. In the literary sphere, I'd compare it to the works of Steinbeck,Bukowski or Fante. It's very much an 'outsider' take on life and may be too bleak for some and I found the heroine's repeated humiliatio ...more
F'n excellent in it's spare sentences and pitch perfect choice of words. Nothing overdone, nothing wasted. Tough story though. Lots of cryin'! AND completely constructed characters with the smallest amount of vocabulary. I give this nothing less than 5 stars. For fans of John Fante, Bukowski, Cheever and Tom Waits. (Check out Vlautin's "" band RICHMOND FONTAIN as well.) Done about 3 days ago? Amazing open ended ending. Just as beautiful as I thought it could be. This would make a grea ...more
Andrew Mcq
This novel is very character driven and cinematic. It reminds me of seventies films like Alice Doesn't Live here anymore and Five Easy Pieces, where the action took its own, uncluttered pace without needing everything to be underlined with an obvious path. In many novels and films, the road to redemption takes a very direct "fall / realisation / salvation" sequence. This book takes a more realistic view. Vlautin manages to get vivid description and dialogue into a fairly economic style. I look f ...more
Cassie Langridge
This is a book that I bought last year while I was working at Waterstone’s, but I bought it from somewhere else. Only 2! Brilliant. The author is a musician, and it also came with a CD, but since I’m not a music person, I’m not going to go out of my way to listen to it.

I simultaneously loved and hated this book. Which is good, because at least it made me feel something. There were a few bits I disliked, but on the whole I thought it was very good, and I would definitely read more of his stuff.

Elaine Torrence
I loved this book. Allison Johnson is a young,battered, scared woman who moves to Reno. "Haunted by the mistakes of the past, and lacking any self-belief, her only comfort seems to come from the imaginary conversations she has with Paul Newman and the characters he played." That might sound kind of affected but it is a great literary devise in this novel. The working class people who do show her kindness and caring, stick with you after their characters go from the story. I really likes this boo ...more
I don't feel like saying much right now, except that I just loved this. Story of a drunkard girl who leaves her abusing speedfreak boyfriend. Tries to break away from the life she doesn't enjoy. Such a beautyful novel in a melancholy kind of way, and yet with the strange sense of optimism underneath. Can't wait to get my copy of Lean On Pete.
In Northline Vlautin brings to life a female character who I absolutely recognize. I know her fictional sisters: Joan Didion's Maria Wyeth in Play It As It Lays, numerous Jean Rhys characters, and even Edith Wharton's Lily Bart in The House of Mirth -- women who are victims of their own bad decisions. To them I now add Vlautin's Allison Johnson. I'm impressed when a guy writer can get it so right, but not surprised (though I can find no ready comparison in my soggy brain this morning).

Willy Vlautin has a way of telling the reader about the seedy side of life but without disrespecting the characters and their poor choices. If your life like mine is pretty privileged, then it might give you a taste of what it would be like to have less opportunities, predispositions to addictions, and other heart felt tragedies. This is raw and real and reminds me that human connection can be very healing.
It did the rarest and best thing, the hardest thing in the world for a book to do: it made me love a character. I mean really, genuinely love her. I loved Allison so much. My heart broke every time she let me down. But, jeez, you wouldn't believe how great I felt whenever she was strong.
Granted, I illustrated and designed the cover, but I love this book. There's something deliciously satisfying about the descriptions of starting from scratch, moving to a new town and setting up camp so to speak. Willy is a natural storyteller.
I was surprised to find myself busting through this in a day. It's a great story, simply told, with characters that really take hold of you before you realize it's happening. Allison is easy to sympathize with, but it's a rough journey... it's so obvious what a good and capable person she is that it just kills me when she spirals down into self-destruction and self-loathing. Also, it was noticeably easy for everyone else to like her (except for the scum bags), which was a pleasant change from he ...more
Debbie Reschke Schug
This guy is like the Johnny Cash of literature. He shines a light on a gritty segment of the population, the forgotten people, and does so in a straightforward and simple way. But stark reality isn’t so simple, and his prose gets that. Layers of fear and self-medication complicate the actions of all his characters that in the end, you feel sorry for every rotten soul. I wept—I mean blow-my-nose weeping—during the monologue of Dan, where he explains why he has the life he has, a choice made for h ...more
Allison struggles throughout the book. She suffered in the past, and that continues to haunt her. She's an alcoholic, but she has a strong inner core. Vlautin's writing style, not missing a beat of important details. This is a basic story of a girl who drinks too much, has an awful, abusive boyfriend, and down in every way. Vlautin has you at the core feeling her daily battle of emotions and seeing how she occasionally overcomes them. Northline is a compassionate story that deals, with the lives ...more
Really enjoyed this one. Haven't listened to the soundtrack to the book yet but can't wait!
Jen Marchain
I have fallen for Willy Vlautin and I have fallen hard. Vlautin has this ability to really understand the underdog and the dislocated of society. In Northline we follow the struggles of Allison - a young pregnant woman who has just left her abusive boyfriend and is on the brink of letting her personal demons win. When a series of chance encounters with kind strangers and second chances come her way, she can't help but hold onto her lifeline. I enjoyed this novel very much and I really appreciate ...more
While I didn't adore it as much as The Motel Life, this was still a great little story: told with great clarity, it is often heartbreaking, and some of its characters just kill me. It's easy to like Allison (as evidenced by the fact that everyone who meets her that isn't a complete douchebag seems drawn to her), and her own kindness and capability is obvious to the reader. She's a tough heroine to root for, though, because MAN, her self-loathing runs deep, and watching her self-destruct is tough ...more
Not for the faint of heart — or folks who, unlike me, don't like depressing books/music. Willy Vlautin writes books that are unequal parts real, horrific and hopeful. Like in his other book, Motel Life, the lead character, Allison, is making her way through a shit life. There are times — after thinking "this can't get worse" — that it does. But you hold out hope, maybe foolishly, for her. Reading this back-to-back with The Good Wife probably amplified the darkness and there are a lot of similari ...more
Plenty of heartbreak in this one, maybe enough for two books. The protagonist, Allison, is a young alcoholic dragging around a multitude of anxieties she can’t seem to shake. In the beginning of the book a speed-addled brute of a boyfriend has Allison caught, and not always metaphorically, in a relationship of menacing highs and lows. Amid thoughts of suicide, among other complications, Allison escapes and leaves town, heading out across Nevada on her own. The chapters are short and compact and ...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 Lean On Pete The Free Jockey's Christmas Willy Vlautin Collection

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