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The Free

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,951 ratings  ·  472 reviews
Award-winning author Willy Vlautin demonstrates his extraordinary talent for confronting issues facing modern America, illuminated through the lives of three memorable characters who are looking for a way out of their financial, familial, and existential crises, in his heartbreaking and hopeful fourth novel

Leroy Kervin is a 31 year old Iraqi War veteran living with a traum
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Harper Perennial
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  2,951 ratings  ·  472 reviews

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Will Byrnes
When Leroy Kervin was 24, a roadside bomb in Iraq parked him in a German hospital with fractures and a serious brain injury. Couldn’t talk. Couldn’t walk. Despite seven years of rehab and huge struggles to regain some of his normal functions, Leroy still suffers from acute PTSD, physical struggles, constant fear, and a fog-shrouded view of the world around him. So, when he wakes up one day miraculously clear-headed, and assumes that this respite is temporary, all he can think is that he will nev ...more
Elyse  Walters
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Library ebook...
In-your-face-simple realistic writing..
dialogue so real - it’s like I wasn’t reading at all...
I also felt like I was hit by a Mac Truck!
Words that ran through my head when I finished this easy reading dreary gloomy book was:
“Life’s hard and then you die”. Depressing? Yep.. you got the idea!

It’s a good book - don’t get me wrong....but not an ounce of it was upbeat.
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Ron by: Liz
Shelves: literary, realistic
Just a short time ago, I read a book that left me without much hope, like being stuck in a valley with no chance of sun. It was not a realistic story. This one is very much so. Both books dealt with serious topics, circumstances in life, and how people react to those circumstances. So why did I feel down after the first, and uplifted by the second? It’s that little word hope. That’s what I was left with here.

At one point while reading, I suddenly wondered just why this book had been titled The F
William Boyle
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I give a lot of books that I really like five stars on Goodreads, but I don't mean it the way I mean it with Willy Vlautin's books. He's the patron saint of the sick and the sad, and this is another damn beautiful novel. He tears you down and builds you back up the way only he can. I broke down crying at least ten times but walked away from the book feeling happy to be alive.

My review is up at the L.A. Review of Books: https://lareviewofbooks.org/review/pa...
Diane S ☔
Nov 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Lives of quiet desperation, all around us people have had their lives affected by the war, unemployment, the insurance mess and the many other things that haunt us all. This novel is about three such people, struggling on and just trying to stay afloat and make the best out of what they have left, just soldiering on and living their lives.

What a very touching and well written story. What stands out in this story is the kindness and compassion these people show when dealing with others. They have
Mikey B.
Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned, fiction
I really couldn’t get into this novel. I found it too dreary and dismal especially the hospital scenes. The characters seemed elementary and the dialogue very unadorned and artificial.

It’s not that I need “happy” but these characters could not draw me in.

The sci-fi scenes were a needless distraction from whatever story there was. The main storyline was underdeveloped and minimalist.
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Free Fallin’
The Most Realistic Dream Descriptions I've Read

A superbly unique narrative via the perspectives of three characters, one primarily via an allegorical dream.

The first character, Leroy, suffered brain trauma from a roadside bomb in Iraq, and is basically an invalid staying at a "second-rate group home for disabled men" in the State of Washington.

The three converge at the hospital where Leroy was taken upon falling down a flight of stairs at the group home after having a momentary stat
Oct 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing

In the land of the free and the home of the brave, are we really all that free…or all that brave? The Free is a hymn of sorts to the working-class American…the man or woman who grew up placing one foot in front of the other, ever hopeful, ever courageous, despite being left behind in the dust. The characters are so authentic and big-hearted – the dialogue so pitch-perfect and real – that I wanted to leap into the pages and give them a hug. Willy Vlautin has placed his finger on the pulse of Amer
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There are books that are so exquisitely written with a simple story that touch your very soul. This is one of those books. People have called Vlautin the modern Steinbeck and his writing in this book is just that good. Still the story reminds me so much of "To Kill A Mockingbird" in its simplicity, strength and character development. It kept me up last night as I couldn't let go of these characters so I could sleep. Tears tickled as I finished it and I am sure it will be with me for some quite s ...more
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Three poignant stories of working class Americans struggling against the backdrop of The Iraqi War and economic stagnation.The characters are sympathetically drawn with attributes of dignity and decency.Vlautin reminds me of Steinbeck.
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I’m a little lost right now for the words to describe this book but I’ll start by saying that The Free is a story with an abundance of heart. It also very nearly broke my heart. Nearly, but not quite.

How can a story about good people in difficult, even dire circumstances, be the slightest bit uplifting? I think it’s because when you meet these characters, people like Freddie, Pauline, Leroy, and even Leroy’s mother Darla… you can see all the cards stacked against them. You can see how easy it w
Mar 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Read The Free on recommendation of several friends. I thoroughly enjoyed Vlautin's construction of story and the weaving of said with his three beautifully rendered characters. It's amazing how an author can portray such hard luck cases and still leave the reader with hope and joy. Character, Iraq war veteran, Leroy Kervin, and his journey is magnificent. 4 stars all the way. ...more
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
In a quiet and simple way, Willy Vlautin is able to write an emotionally morose novel about the suffocation of the lower-middle class. He uses three main characters to tell his tale: Leroy is an Iraq-war vet who came back to the US with physical and emotional damage. He was persuaded to sign up for the National Guard before the war, thinking he’d be safe. He never dreamed that the National Guard would be called for service in a war. Freddie works two jobs to try and keep himself afloat. He is di ...more
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-fiction
I might make this a five star -- this might be perfect writing, or it could be just very good, carrying a second punch of empathy that knocks the wind right out of me. We follow three interrelated characters, all struggling, all damaged, but with such dazzling moral character that the reader sits in awe of the richness of their hearts. We're forced to unpack a definition of "free" from our conceptions of "prosperous", "happy", "satisfied", "patriotic", and any relations to our American idealism ...more
Andy Weston
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a novel about freedom. Not hard to guess that from the title, but The Free is actually a symbolic ship in a sub story within the plot. The story is of a group of characters all seeking freedom or escape for one reason or another. Pauline, the nurse on night duty with her ward of drug affected and terminally ill patients. Leroy, injured physically and mentally in Iraq, has just attempted suicide. Freddie, a divorced father living without his children, working two jobs and owing large amou ...more
Bill Khaemba
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Thanks to The Willoughby Book Club for sending this book my way

This was a quiet reading experience, capturing everyday life through the actions of the characters. Following three perspectives: A paralyzed ex-military (Leroy) on the verge of suicide, A nurse (Pauline)  who tends to Leroy after his suicide leaves his health at a critical state but we also see how disconnected Pauline is and her complex relationship with her father and the patients at the hospital. We also follow Leroy's home atten

Bonnie Brody
Oct 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Free, by Willy Vlautin, is a beautiful and disturbing novel about three good people smacked down by life. They are each trying to survive in their own way despite horrific odds.

There is Leroy Kerwin, a young man and National Guard volunteer, who was sent to Afghanistan after 9/11. He was hit by and IED and is suffering extreme traumatic brain injury. He lives in a group home and his mind is clouded and he can't perform his activities of daily living. One day, inexplicably, his mind clears an
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Jeff Giles
Recommended to Cheri by: Will Byrnes
"My uncle said it was bad luck to leave a fridge with no beer in it. He said it was lonely enough being a fridge, that the least you could do was leave beer so it would have something to look at and admire all day."

Riveting, entertaining.
Jun 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I adore Vlautin's writing and it always cracks my heart just a little; I end up thinking about his characters for days.

More thorough review coming soon.
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Willy Vlautin’s 4th novel is an extraordinary and deeply compassionate story, heartbreakingly real and quite unforgettable. He’s a writer who is nowhere near as well-known and appreciated as he deserves to be, and I hope that this beautiful book will enhance his reputation and bring him to a wider audience.
The book follows three main protagonists, whose lives intersect as they struggle to find the courage, decency and strength to combat the raw deal life has thrown at them. It opens with Leroy K
Oct 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The 3rd of Vlautin's books I've read, and once again he nails it. It's a simple book, with real, human stories...and yet it's told so damn well you can't help but feel it. The world needs more books like this; American fiction needs a helluva lot more books like this -- books filled with real people, and real problems, and real kindness, and real grit and mettle and heart and soul. It's political without preaching, and deeply concerned with right and wrong without slipping into sloppy moralism. ...more
Apr 08, 2022 rated it really liked it
I will read Willy Vlautin's other books. I am a fan of his earthy, to the point writing about down on their luck, but likeable characters. "The Free" brings that home loud and clear. Pauline, Freddie, Jo (Carol), and the gravely injured Leroy all have their own dark story to tell, and Vlautin tells it perfectly.
I didn't like the Leroy hallucination sequences...Hence four instead of five stars. Thanks to my GR friend Will for introducing me to Willy and his likeable but downtrodden cast. Four boo
Kasa Cotugno
The Free is a fine example of why we read fiction. When someone turns up their nose proclaiming they only read nonfiction, and that reading fiction is a waste of time, I point to a book such as this with my own proclamation that such a work registers the deepest recesses of the human heart, and we need more of such material to regain our hope for humanity. Leroy, the character at the center of the book, was severely brain damaged while deployed in Iraq by a roadside bomb. Although his plight for ...more
Irina Elena
This is depressing as fuck.

But it's so heartbreakingly humane and matter-of-fact and hopeful in the face of tragedy that it leaves you feeling unsettlingly lighthearted, if more than a little sad.

Vlautin's writing is sharp and uncomplicated, portraying scenes and actions in a way that is almost mechanical and with no time wasted on descriptions of feelings, but those scenes and actions are so steeped in significance that it all comes across more clearly than if every emotion were made explicit a
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me so angry! It brought up so many issues happening in the US today. Poverty, and the collapse of the middle class, the cost of health care, and the inevitable decline into bankruptcy that is one catastrophe or illness away (even when you have health insurance)! The need for Mental Health care, the enormous sacrifice of veterans and their families, racism, illegal immigration, and so much more.

The three main characters (heroes) in this book are what makes all of the above somewhat
Nov 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
In this heartbreaking novel, Willy Vlautin offers up the delicate balance of beauty and sadness. The three main characters are not exactly intertwined, more like tangentially connected in the way all lives touch upon similar struggles and experiences.

Leroy, Freddie and Pauline are all struggling to stay afloat, to break free to overcome their demons – emotional, spiritual and physical. Vlautin does a wonderful job of presenting their circumstances and strengths even in light of their challenges.
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is another amazing novel from one of my favourite authors.

Vlautin has been lauded as a modern Steinbeck, and in The Free he more than meets the hype such a tag in his portrayal of three small town underdogs-Leroy Kervin, a National Guardsman in a care home after suffering a brain injury following an insurgent attack in Iraq, Freddie McCall, working two jobs and in a spiral of uncontrollable debt as a result of medical bills accrued due to insurance not covering medical procedures on his in
Terry Knoy
Oct 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love reading Willy's books. He writes about people many of us can identify with. Those with goodness in their hearts despite all the struggles so many of us face. A reminder that life is not easy, but it is Wonderful! ...more
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loving and caring for others even in hopeless situations is a beautiful thing to see. I felt the whole range of emotions with this book but my despair was conquered with hope and love. I love tragedy. Fantastic.
Feb 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Author Willy Vlautin's own voice never intrudes into this novel. Instead, he acquaints the reader with his characters by observing how they see and respond to each other. The viewpoint is in third person and shifts among a repertory of characters.

First, there is Leroy Kervin, brain damaged six months after the deployment of his National Guard unit to Iraq. He was only 24 when injured. Years have passed. A fleeting moment of awareness, the first since his injury, confronts him with the zombie-li
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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

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