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3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  1,327 Ratings  ·  178 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 ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published February 7th 2008 by Faber and Faber (first published 2008)
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Will Byrnes
Oct 10, 2013 Will Byrnes rated it liked it
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
Jamie Rose
Feb 23, 2012 Jamie Rose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mark Stevens
Aug 02, 2016 Mark Stevens rated it it was amazing
My copy came with a CD that gives you an instant feeling for the mood.

Melancholy. Lonesome. Spare. Downcast.

It’s also beautiful—a strumming guitar and a sorrowful pedal steel.

Willy Vlautin is a musician, too; he heads up the band Richmond Fontaine (a band allegedly now on their farewell tour).

I’ve read four Willy Vlautin novels now and I read them in this order, which I recommend: Lean on Pete, The Free, The Motel Life, Northline.

He wrote them in this order: The Motel Life, Northline, Lean on Pe
Oct 17, 2010 Malbadeen rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 20, 2008 christa rated it liked it
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
May 22, 2016 Steven rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, modern, american
This was a bleak little tale of troubled Alison Johnson who flees Las Vegas for Reno and a new start after issues with an abusive boyfriend and alcoholism, we also discover she has very low self esteem and a serious case of anxiety for which she strikes up imaginary conversations with actor Paul Newman to help calm her nerves, but could the friendliness of some town folk she meets lead to some sort of salvation?.This was tough going and Vlautin certainly portrays a vision of american life in ...more
John Owen
Feb 21, 2015 John Owen rated it really liked it
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.
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
Jun 04, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Sep 10, 2013 Dave rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Sep 13, 2015 Kara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Northline by Willy Vlautin is a novel about place set in the most placeless cities in America: Las Vegas and Reno. These are places to which people go—synonymous with sin and vice and lost weekends—but they are not places in which people live. Yet Vlautin brings Vegas and especially Reno to life, and they are perhaps his best characters in this character-driven novel. Dan Mahony, a Reno native who lets his past keep him from truly living in the present, says of the place, “So many people move ...more
Nigel Bird
Dec 15, 2013 Nigel Bird rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 22, 2013 Wilson rated it really liked it
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
Mar 08, 2008 Steve rated it really liked it
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
Jun 03, 2008 camilla rated it liked it
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
Aug 17, 2009 Bonnie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
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
Apr 29, 2011 Tara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
May 30, 2016 Sally rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I adore the author, Willy Vlautin, and feel he just does right by folks. He tells tales of the down-and-out, often overlooked people who are trying to get through each day. His writing is gentle and simple, yet it hits me so hard. He makes my heart ache and makes me smile, often at the same time.

This novel, a quick read, is the story of a young woman who makes bad decisions, choses the wrong guy, leaves town to try to right her life, loses a bit of herself, works to feel better about who she is
Elaine Torrence
May 26, 2008 Elaine Torrence rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Andrew Mcq
Sep 29, 2010 Andrew Mcq rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jul 31, 2012 Juuso rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 17, 2010 Alicia rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 07, 2009 Nate rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 03, 2015 Giselle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely breathtaking. So glad I stumbled upon this book so many years ago. It kind of reminded me of Bright Shiny Morning, mixed with a bit of Off Magazine Street; two of my favorite books.
Jul 20, 2008 linnea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
Really enjoyed this one. Haven't listened to the soundtrack to the book yet but can't wait!
Rebecca Freeborn
May 22, 2015 Rebecca Freeborn rated it it was amazing
Stunning. I love this author's voice - genuine, touching, tragic but ever hopeful.
Oct 20, 2016 Tonny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Na het vorige boek dat ik van Willy Vlautin las (Vrij), wist ik dat ik meer van deze schrijver wilde lezen. En na het lezen van Noordwaarts kan ik wederom zeggen dat Vlautin me niet teleur heeft gesteld.

We zijn als lezer getuige van een belangrijke fase in het Allison. Ze heeft vreselijke dingen meegemaakt en is op de vlucht geslagen voor haar vriend Jimmy Brodie. Haar onzekerheid maken haar vluchtpoging fragiel. Alles in haar nieuwe omgeving lijkt ook op instorten te staan: de mensen die ze teg
Nov 12, 2016 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are some novels that I consider patently good because they are honest and straightforward, containing the intermingled flatness and ripples of real life. Something just rings true. Vlautin thankfully has an ear for dialogue and an understanding of the downtrodden, the wayward, and those Americans on the dusty fringes who persist despite their anxious uncertainty. His empathy shines as clearly as the sun probably does in Nevada. The book was over before I knew it. I wanted to spend more ...more
Isabell Edvinsson
Oct 31, 2016 Isabell Edvinsson rated it really liked it
I'm kinda conflicted about this book because it gave me a lot of different kind of emotions. It was way darker than any of the books I usually read, and I just felt really sorry for the main character for everything she had to go through. At the same time I feel like the ending was pretty open, and I would have liked to get a better closure than the one that I got. But overall, it was a pretty well written book with characters that really intrigued me.
Devin Murphy
Nov 23, 2016 Devin Murphy rated it it was amazing
I loved this novel. The prose is so clear and beautiful I was always stunned. It also shows one of the most relatable, unlikable characters, who helped me get a handle on this last election as well. Vlautin shows you a part of the world that is uncomfortable to look at, but you fee wiser for looking.
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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...

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