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Shotgun Lovesongs

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,742 Ratings  ·  1,661 Reviews
Hank, Leland, Kip and Ronny were all born and raised in the same Wisconsin town — Little Wing — and are now coming into their own (or not) as husbands and fathers. One of them never left, still farming the family's land that's been tilled for generations. Others did leave, went farther afield to make good, with varying degrees of success; as a rock star, commodities trader ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 11th 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Stephanie Justin Vernon, of Bon Iver, and the author, NIckolas Butler, are both from Eau Claire, WI and knew each other in high school.. Here's an intvw with…moreJustin Vernon, of Bon Iver, and the author, NIckolas Butler, are both from Eau Claire, WI and knew each other in high school.. Here's an intvw with Butler acknowledging that Justin's story was the inspiration for creating his fictional character, Lee.
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Karin Litwin I was thinking about how Lee's and Henry's lives could have switched. Lee fantasized about marrying Beth and maybe living Henry's life. Maybe Henry…moreI was thinking about how Lee's and Henry's lives could have switched. Lee fantasized about marrying Beth and maybe living Henry's life. Maybe Henry could have led Lee's life and been a famous artist also - a painter?(less)

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Jan 08, 2015 Gail rated it it was amazing
As a reader, I'm drawn to books written in Butler's style: plain-spoken language, characters who aren't overly complicated (yet still complex enough to be believable), and a setting so true it becomes an integral element to the plot. In the hands of a writer like Butler, an author who's clearly put the time and effort into making the story one with great flow, these elements have aligned in such a way to elevate "Shotgun Lovesongs" to the five-stars, favorites shelf—-at least, for me anyway.

On m
Dec 16, 2013 Greg rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is apparently a novel about the musician who is known as Bon Iver.

I've heard a few songs by Bon Iver before, but I know very little about him (yeah I know he has a real name, and maybe Bon Iver is the name of the whole project). I'm not a fan. I'm probably not the intended audience for this book.

If I were a fan, or even mildly interested in Bon Iver I'd probably find the book interesting despite it's flaws.

Where to start this review?

The novel takes place in a small Wisconsin town, the ho
Apr 24, 2014 Jay rated it really liked it
Shotgun Lovesongs
By Nickolas Butler

An Eau Claire author (where I’m from) has hit the BIG time. We’re talking huge here people. Author Nickolas Butler was fought over by high-brow publishing houses and walked away with an amazing contract. Movie rights are sold as well. Why? Because his debut novel hits home—hits you where you live. Breaks your heart. You want to read it now, don’t you? You will.

The premise is simple and timeless and very Big Chill-like, (ask your mom) what is refreshing is tha
Back in the day, I was a huge fan of the TV show thirtysomething. Back when I was still in my teens and thirty-something seemed impossibly distant and terribly romantic. Babies and briefcases. I loved all the navel-gazing angst, the soap-operatic lives, Hope Steadman's hair. I wanted to be Hope: a writer, a mother, wife to a hunky, kind of dorky husband. Amazingly, now that I'm fortysomething, I got most of what I wished for, except the babies. And I definitely don't have that hair.

I derived th
Sep 13, 2015 Mish rated it it was ok
The book is set in a country town of Wisconsin called Little Wing. It’s a story of 5 close friends who were born and raised in this small country town who’s friendship is slowly drifting in different direction as they reach their mid 30’s. Trying to keep the close bond intact, as well as getting through obstacle that life throws at you, has proven to be challenging.

Prior to reading this book, I had found out that the lead singer of Bon Iver, Justin Vernon, was the inspiration for one of the main
Secrets in small towns spread like tumbleweed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That is to say a secret lasts about as long as a change in wind direction, or a flying ball sailing across a major highway in the middle of rush hour traffic. SHOTGUN LOVESONGS brings up many of the negative points about small town life, and therefore it won’t be at the top of my Christmas list anytime this century. The third person multiple perspective nature of this tale peppered with the occasional flashback left me wit ...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
Mar 07, 2014 Shelleyrae at Book'd Out rated it really liked it

Set in rural Wisconsin, Shotgun Lovesongs tells the story of four men, and one woman, renegotiating the meaning of friendship, love and home.

Five characters share the narrative in alternating chapters. Hank - who inherited his father's farm, Beth - Hank's wife, Lee - an international music artist, Kip - a successful broker and Ronny -an injured rodeo star. These people speak and we think that we know them, who they are and what they dream of, but each are capable of surprising us as the story un
Aug 03, 2014 Alena rated it really liked it
Sometimes you begin reading a book and it immediately feels comfortable, like slipping into an old sweater on a cool day. That’s what I felt reading Nickolas Butler. Even though I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and not small-town Wisconsin, I knew the Midwestern feel of this novel down to my bones. I knew the speech patterns, the sense of both belongingness and isolation. I knew these people.

"These men, these men who have known one another their entire lives. These men who were all born in the s
"It's a [book] like hundreds of others, nothing special, really."

I got halfway through this audiobook, thinking about abandoning it several times along the way, but feeling like I should finish it since I won it in a GR first reads giveaway. Then it occurred to me that I'm going to die someday and that I should move on to a good book. I'm giving my review based on what I've noticed of the first half of the audiobook.

So, this is the story of a bunch of guys in their 30s who grew up together in r
Feb 28, 2014 Zoeytron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, audio
I am a sucker for novels set in small towns. In this story, we drop in on Little Wing, Wisconsin. Loved the image of the old men sitting in front of the mill passing the time of day and smelling of cheap cologne and halitosis. The old VFW hall constructed of old painted cinder blocks was right on, as was the ancient mahogany bar inside and the requisite oversized jar of pickled eggs. Really liked the comparison of the barren perfection of Kip & Felicia's house to Henry & Beth's home, a p ...more
Mar 18, 2016 Maribel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4'5 estrellas !!

Estaba buscando un cambio de registro o de género, y cómo me alegra haberme topado con esta obra. Si buscáis un libro con una trama compleja, con altibajos, con mucho sexo, pasión desbordante o acción a raudales.....aquí NO lo vais a encontrar. Canciones de amor a quemarropa nos cuenta la historia de un grupo de amigos que se conocen desde pequeños, la amistad es el eje central de la trama. Narrado con pausa, con mucho gusto, con detalle y con como un libro de autor, d
Jan 03, 2014 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ugh. There was potential here but the author didn't follow through. This read like a first draft.

Chapters alternate first-person narration between five different characters, but all the characters sound the same. Butler would have been better off going with third-person narration.

The author really wanted to set up Wisconsin as a character in itself, and he sometimes succeeded, but so many times he just referenced Carhartts, or John Deere, or Leinenkugels, like, "Hey, you know they're really leg
Feb 13, 2015 Giovanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

"Quando non ho nessun posto dove andare, torno qui. Quando non ho niente, torno qui. Torno qui e dal niente tiro fuori qualcosa. Posso vivere ai limiti della sussistenza; non c'è niente da comprare, nessuno da impressionare. Da queste parti tutto ciò che importa alla gente è la tua etica sul lavoro e la tua gentilezza e la tua competenza. Torno qui e ritrovo la mia voce come qualcosa che mi è scivolato dalle tasche, come un souvenir sepolto a lungo. E ogni volta che ritorno sono circondato da
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

ARC received from NetGalley. Thank you NetGalley!!!!!

The story of four childhood friends (and one wife), their marriages and divorces, successes and failures, as they attempt to navigate their way through their early 30s.

Until the day I started reading Shotgun Lovesongs, I had no idea the story was inspired by the author’s friendship with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame. In all honesty, the book got bumped ahead of some others on the TB
Heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time, this book transported me away to the world of Little Wing, Wisconsin with wonderful characters and a great story. I felt as though I were right back home in the Midwest while reading this book, and it made me miss it terribly. I highly recommend this book - yet another great example of work from an Iowa Writer's Workshop author.
An ode to friendship in a small, Midwestern town.

Being from a small town, I can attest to what it feels like to have the same friends your whole life. I graduated high school with the same kids I started Kindergarten, most of my friends married high school sweethearts, and a fair number of them still live in my hometown. There is an ebb and flow to the friendships, times when you see a person every day and then suddenly you realize it's been a year since you saw them. But, going home still feels
JoAnne Pulcino
Jul 16, 2014 JoAnne Pulcino rated it it was amazing

Nicholas Baker

This is a debut novel so I will definitely be watching for more great reads from this author.

This is excellent novel about four men and their women who have been friends since childhood. Mr. Baker captures the quiet beauty and sense of time and place in the small town of Little Wing, Wisconsin. Each character has a voice and each is rich and complicated in their diverse ways. Each of the four friends takes very different paths. Hank remains in Little Wing working
Sara Nelson
Mar 06, 2014 Sara Nelson rated it really liked it
Loved this deceptively simple novel and was surprised by it, since "homespun" is not often something I treasure. But this plainspoken story about four guys and the town they grew up in and the secrets they keep has stayed with me. I grew up in a smallish place, too and while it was completely different from Little Wing, Wisconsin, the alliances and secrets formed there travel with me.
Jun 18, 2016 ☮Karen rated it really liked it
I won an advanced copy from Goodreads First Reads, even though I had no recollection of signing up for it. I secretly believe that they looked at my Goodreads profile and handpicked me personally to read this because of my love of small-town & farm stories. And Shotgun Lovesongs is no exception, even though the title just makes me cringe.

Little Wing, WI, and its inhabitants won my heart, and made me reminisce about growing up in a little Midwestern town, only Little Wing has better scenery.
Mientras Leo
Mira que llegué con ganas a este libro. Pero me pareció todo tan perfecto y tan típico que le faltó la sal a la historia.
Oct 21, 2014 Sub_zero rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reto-2014

¿Cómo expresar de manera adecuada el sobrecogedor sentimentalismo que me embarga al recordar ciertos pasajes de esta obra? Sencillamente, no se puede. Dotada de una sensibilidad extrema, un ritmo ágil y un desarrollo tan elocuente como perfectamente equilibrado, Canciones de amor a quemarropa es de esas historias cuya desbordante personalidad capturan tu atención desde el primer momento y que consiguen implicarte a un nivel emocional con todos sus personajes por su demoledora credibilidad.
Laine Bergeson
Jun 30, 2014 Laine Bergeson rated it did not like it
I haven't read prose this artless in a long time! (I can't help the exclamation point: that first sentence has to be recited in a faux chipper voice that seems to promise a rave review but reveals the exact opposite. It just feels right, perhaps because a lot of people really DID rave review this book.) I found this effort so sophomoric that I kept flipping to the author photo on the back flap to make sure that the writer wasn't, well, a high school sophomore.

The book broke down on every level:
Jun 28, 2014 Jeanette rated it liked it
This is a "Big Chill" set up- 4 male friends from a small WI town called Little Wing, rather than the larger group as in the movie- but much the same nuance. Some stay, some went- they return for weddings or events, as they have taken different courses and directions. And it is easy read and told in alternating chapters of each male (4 in the group of childhood and h.s. friends) and Henry's wife. It ends before any of them have hit any true consideration or encroachment of middle age. As if thei ...more
Oct 14, 2015 Pamela rated it really liked it
The story of the tangled lives of 4 men and a woman who grew up in the same small town in Wisconsin. They leave, return, fall in and out of love, argue, get in trouble... sounds sort of like "Women's Fiction" doesn't it? But Nickolas Butler adds the fresh spice of a male perspective. I hope he keeps writing!
Kirk Smith
Dec 31, 2015 Kirk Smith rated it it was amazing
There's an integrity woven into this because the author is so skilled, he removes his own presence and just lets the story be told. I was impressed with the rural Midwest feel, what it's like to be from a small town centered around a Farmer's Co Op and a VFW Bar & Pool Hall. Told from the point of view of five different residents and good friends, there is enough good story to keep entertained. One character is loosely based on Justin Vernon (the band is Bon Iver), so here's your soundtrack ...more
Anita Pomerantz
Jun 22, 2016 Anita Pomerantz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book follows a group of friends (Lee, Kip, Beth, Ronny, Henry) and who grew up together in the same small rural farming town in Wisconsin. Their lives come together and break apart in fascinating ways, but underneath it all, their friendships endure. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the characters, and to be honest, my only quibble with the whole book is that the author opted to use the first initial of each character instead of the name to headline the chapter. I've give ...more
Maya Panika
The story of 5 friends from a small town in Wisconsin: Henry the farmer, who stayed home and married Beth, his childhood sweetheart; Ronnie the Rodeo star, alcoholic, brain injured, in need of tlc; Kip the businessman, who left to make his millions in Chicago, and came home to indulge a dream of making it on his home turf; Lee, the rich, famous musician who left to tour the world and retired home hurt, on the back of a failed marriage.
Written in these five voices, this sort of crept up on me. I
I love debut authors because I want to hear the new voices and find the rock stars before they even play their first real gig. Which is why I am so excited about this book--Nickolas Butler is going to be one of those rock stars. This book is about a group of friends, ten or so years after they graduated from high school. There is literally a rock star in the bunch, as well as a famous rodeo guy who got hit by one too many bulls (and bottles), a married couple with small children and a big farm t ...more
Jan 24, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this ARC through the Goodreads first-reads giveaway program. Bravo, to this author's debut. What a wonderful work of story telling. You feel very engaged in the lives of the five main characters just doing life together. It reads very similar to William Gay's Provinces of Night which to me is a very high compliment. It wasn't similar in plot but very similar to the structure of the novel. A story of lives and how they interact together and separately from each other. It's a book I did ...more
May 10, 2015 Anne rated it it was amazing
I haven't read a book that lovely in a long time. Butler's prose is simply beautiful. Reminiscent of Kent Haruf, even. The book is told from the viewpoint of each of the 5 main characters and it works beautifully. I came to love each one of them, as well as the land - because the way it was described, revered, remembered, etc made it a character in & of itself. And like any really good book, it left me wanting to know more - but also completely satisfied with the ending. Thank you for the bo ...more
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Nickolas Butler is the author of the novel "Shotgun Lovesongs" and a collection of short stories entitled, "Beneath the Bonfire".

Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania and raised in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, he was educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop. His work has appeared in: Ploughshares, The Christian Science Monitor, The Kenyon Review Online, Narr
More about Nickolas Butler...

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“In all my travels, only in the Midwest would someone spend their money in a place they hate simply because they feel bad for the proprietors. Also I suppose, because they know your name.” 12 likes
“America, I think, is about poor people playing music and poor people sharing food and poor people dancing, even when everything else in their life is so desperate, and so dismal that it doesn't seem there should be any room for any music, any extra food, or any extra energy for dancing. And people can say that I'm wrong, that we're a puritanical people, an evangelical people, a selfish people, but I don't believe that. I don't want to believe that.” 11 likes
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