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Shotgun Lovesongs

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  15,843 ratings  ·  2,371 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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Tonio It's definitely NOT Justin Vernon's story. Even though it's partially and vaguely inspired in him, it will disappoint you if that's your main motivati…moreIt's definitely NOT Justin Vernon's story. Even though it's partially and vaguely inspired in him, it will disappoint you if that's your main motivation for reading this book.(less)
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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 co…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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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  15,843 ratings  ·  2,371 reviews

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Mar 29, 2014 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
May 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
My mini review:

2.5 stars, rounded up

This is the male version of chick lit..."dude lit"? The book follows a group of childhood friends from their high school years through adulthood in a small town in America's heartland.

It was well-written from a technical standpoint but I found myself bored, wanting to hurry the story along, and considering abandoning it. Not much happens and I grew weary of the purple prose, in particular, Leland's flowery and heartsick musings. It didn't ring true to me and m
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first 5 star novel of 2019.

This book was exquisite. Well-rounded, highly developed characters. Exploring the depths of friendships, home, family, forgiveness, and our "place" in the world, this novel was a stand-out. I think it would be appreciated by those who have enjoyed Anna Quindlen and Elizabeth Strout's work.
Apr 24, 2014 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
Sep 06, 2013 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
J.K. Grice
Aug 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I guess I read Nickolas Butler's books in kind of a roundabout way. I started with The Hearts of Men and then read Little Faith, his most recent novel. I love his writing style, and THE HEARTS OF MEN will most likely be my favorite read of 2020. So, now I just finished Butler's debut novel, SHOTGUN LOVESONGS. It was trademark Butler, with richly drawn characters and small town happenings, but it did have the feel of a first novel to me. I think he really grew as a writer from this point on.

I gr
Julie Christine
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
Larry H
Dec 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Some books do a great job evoking a sense of place and a general mood, which draw you even further into them. Nickolas Butler's Shotgun Lovesongs is one such book. It's beautifully written—poetic, even—and tremendously compelling, and I read it between two short flights.

Little Wing, Wisconsin is a small rural town. Henry, Lee, Ronny, and Kip were best friends who grew up together. While Henry stayed in Little Wing to take over his father's dairy farm, Ronny found some success on the rodeo circui
Feb 28, 2014 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
(4.5) Four childhood friends from Little Wing, Wisconsin; four weddings but no funeral – though there are a couple of close calls along the way. Which bonds will last, and which will be strained to the breaking point?

Henry is the family man, a dairy farmer who married his college sweetheart, Beth, and has two kids. Lee is a musician, the closest thing to a rock star that Little Wing will ever produce. He became famous for Shotgun Lovesongs, a bestselling album he recorded by himself in a refurbi
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I thought this novel was just lovely. Once in a while, a book hits you at just the right moment and in just the right way. This novel was like a sunday morning cup of coffee for me. I just thoroughly enjoyed it.

The story is told from five points of view, four men who have grown up together, and a woman who grew up with them. The story is about their relationships, and features a few successive weddings and the challenges these marriages and friendships face, as their intertwined lives move forw
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
Joy D
Character-driven contemporary fiction about the adult lives of five childhood friends from a small town in Wisconsin. Beth and Henry are a married couple with two children working a dairy farm to eke out a living. Kip is a broker, recently returned to the area from Chicago to renovate an old mill. Ronny is an ex-rodeo star with an alcohol dependency and an injury that has left him not quite as sharp as he used to be. Lee is a musician who is now famous but returns often to his hometown. The book ...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
Nov 25, 2013 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
Jan 08, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was just an okay read for me. Unfortunately, I was unable to connect with the characters and consider abandoning it half-way through. However, I hung on until the end and did enjoy some of the descriptive writing toward the end.
With beautiful and at times poetic prose, Nickolas Butler shares the landscape of love won and lost among friends that grew up together. I listened to this as a gorgeous audio, the voices dripping with authenticity. Kip is the boy with numbers in his head who grows into the man who instinctively knows how to go about making money. Ronny is the rodeo hero who was the high school homecoming king; his biggest flaw is not knowing when to quit drinking; his greatest virtue, the loyalty of a true frie ...more
"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
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
Jan 08, 2014 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 place wel ...more
Jul 31, 2014 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
Sep 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway. I understand that Butler is a first time author. This was a lovely book. In the grand scheme of things, it's a simple story in which not much beyond the ordinary happens. It's a story about how close childhood friendships weather over time -- with all the baggage of the past and the disparate life choices that tug away at the friendships. However, what makes this book lovely is in the telling of the story. The several first person narratives convey very ...more
Sara Nelson
Mar 06, 2014 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. ...more
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
This had me at pg 2: "The earth rolling backward beneath him." Yes, this read swooped me up, just like a Richard Russo novel where you don't want it to end and a part of you wishes you could live happily-ever-after in these characters' world. Nothing was over or under done. It was just right.
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
This story explores the way our youthful friendships change as we grow older. When we're teenagers, it's all about having fun together. Everything is in the future. We can talk about our dreams and what we hope to do with our lives and anything is possible.

After we graduate from high school and go out into the world, life gets complicated, and our old friendships are profoundly altered. Some people have great success, others have great misfortune. Some stay in town and take the "boring" route t
Jan 03, 2014 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
JoAnne Pulcino
Apr 23, 2014 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
Laine Bergeson
Jun 30, 2014 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:
Michael Ferro
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"With his debut novel, SHOTGUN LOVESONGS, Nickolas Butler has crafted one of the most heartfelt, compassionate portrayals of Midwestern life in recent memory. The narrative jumps chapter-to-chapter from the viewpoint of the each of the main characters, showcasing Butler's uncanny knack for getting inside the minds—and hearts—of his rural-bred ensemble. Most impressive is the incredible empathic connection the author has with the people that populate his fictional town of Little Wing, Wisconsin. ...more
Rod Brown
Jun 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020-real-books
Three Weddings and a Blizzard, or, Love, Cheesehead Style.

I've been meaning to read this since it first came out since it is set in Wisconsin, a couple hundred miles upstate from the dairy farm where I grew up. While I didn't recognize a lot of the book as being necessarily authentic or particular to Wisconsin, it was a perfectly acceptable low-key domestic drama of friendship in a small town for a little group of thirtysomethings. The characters are likable and my time spent with the book was p
Nicole R
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
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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

Articles featuring this book

  The United States of America is an awfully big place. Sensibly, we chopped it into states a long time ago. This simplifies...
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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.” 17 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.” 15 likes
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