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Lean On Pete

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  3,372 ratings  ·  511 reviews
Fifteen-year-old Charley Thompson wants a home, food on the table, and a high school he can attend for more than part of a year. But as the son of a single father working in warehouses across the Pacific Northwest, Charley's been pretty much on his own. When tragic events leave him homeless weeks after their move to Portland, Oregon, Charley seeks refuge in the tack room ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 13th 2010 by Harper Perennial (first published 2010)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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 ·  3,372 ratings  ·  511 reviews

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Trixie Fontaine
I loved Motel Life so when I saw this Willie Vlautin prominently displayed at the library I quickly snatched it up, forgetting that I'd planned to avoid it because it sounded WAY TOO DAMNED SAD. I made it through though, but crunched it into basically one sitting because it was more difficult to live with than Motel Life (because the main character is so young, I think) but again, it wasn't as unbearably depressing as I'd feared.

The other reason I read it quickly? Because it's amazing. Even when
Nigel Bird
Oct 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There are books that I can’t really fully explain in terms of why they were so enjoyable or had such an impact. ‘Lean On Pete’ is one of them. I’m going to try and unpick that for myself here in this review.
The work seems really simple in the structure as a whole and in the clean style of writing, yet the impact it had on me was far more powerful than this simplicity might normally allow.
Before the novel begins, there’s a quote from John Steinbeck:
‘It is true that we are weak and sick and ugly
Susan Johnson
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the story about a young boy, 15, who is trying to make it on his own. He is hungry for everything- food, companionship, guidance, care and love. The writing is sparse and lovely. It reminds me a lot of Steinbeck. If you want a book that will touch your soul then this is it. It's justnn wonderful.
Bert Z
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gorgeous! Absolutely gorgeous!!

So far this year I’ve read quite a few books that I’ve loved, but none more than Lean On Pete by Willy Vlautin. It’s so hard to describe, there’s just something so quietly tender and beautiful about it, the way I felt when reading this is the same way I felt when I read Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, it filled my entire being with equal parts happiness and sadness.

On the forefront, it looks like a story about a boy and his horse but it’s so much more than that, it’s a
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recently I won a pass to see a pre-release screening of Lean On Pete in West Los Angeles (a faithful, excellent adaptation, by the way). I remembered that years ago I had bought the book, which had disappeared into my voluminous TBR piles. I dug it out and finally read it. All I can say is what took me so long? Charley Thompson tells the harrowing story of his attempt to save a broken-down race horse while searching for his long-lost aunt in clear, simple language. Willy Vlautin creates a ...more
Jul 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
On the bright side, Charlie (main character) never got molested and never prostituted himself. pshew.

Willy won!!!

yay, willy!
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this novel in German when it came out in 2010, shortly after I'd read Northline and had fallen in love with Willy Vlautin's sparse and beautiful prose. I've been itching to see Reno ever since (and whenever I tell people they go "Reno? Really?") and he's been in my top 5 favourite author list ever since. And this while not of of his novels is a 5-star book for me (Northline came closest), which is weird for a favourite author, I guess, but there's just always this tiny bit missing for me. ...more
Jul 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
I heard Willy Vlautin speak at Live Wire Radio in Portland years ago and have been entranced by his authenticity ever since. So when our book club decided to have the next gathering at the local horse racing venue, this book, set around Portland Meadows, seemed apt.

His prose is simple and propulsive. But the emotional weight of what happens on the page is powerful and unsparring. I read LEAN ON PETE in one sitting, could't walk away. Looking forward to talking about it at the track.

Mark Stevens
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Willy Vlautin’s style is calm and clear-eyed. Zero flash. The prose is dry-eyed.

The opening lines: “When I woke up that morning it was still pretty early. Summer had just begun and form where I lay in my sleeping bag I could see out the window. There were hardly any clouds and the sky was clear and blue.”

The narrator is fifteen-year-old Charley Thompson. He has just moved to Portland to Spokane with his father. they are starting over. They are in a rundown house next to a trailer park. There
Feb 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2010, review
Review from Badelynge.
Willy Vlautin is the frontman of a band called Richmond Fontaine who also writes novels. Lean on Pete is his third such book. It introduces us to Charley Thompson, a 15 year old boy who lives an unsettled life with his dad. Pretty much left to his own devices and uprooted from his previous life in Spokane, Charley tries to make the best of things. He pines for his old home and friends while doing his best to stock a fridge that is as neglected as himself. His dad isn't a
Mar 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Featuring a fifteen-year-old boy with a string of hard luck, the new book by Willy Vlautin mines a similar storyline as his first two books and it's just as good. You may think it would be tiring to always write about the depressing lives of people but Willy does it so well, giving his readers a shining thread of hope to hold on to throughout. At times the book had the feel of a classic kid's adventure ala Huck Finn and I admit I did tear up a few times while reading it. The Portland setting at ...more
Jul 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
The point-of-view character is Charley Thompson, 15 years old. He is the loneliest, most disadvantaged, bravest, most innocent, ingenious, and eternally hopeful survivor I've come across in literature in a long time. He has something in common with the "Noble Savage" and yet he is not wild. He is amazingly civilized (except for table manners) for all the neglect and disinterest he has suffered. He lived with his dad after his mom--someone named Nancy-- abandoned him as a baby. The relationship ...more
Mar 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I saw this book prominently displayed at my local independent bookstore a couple of weeks ago. I read the back cover and discovered that the writer lives in Oregon, and that the story is mostly set in Portland. So I was instantly intrigued. I then scanned excerpts of the positive reviews found on the first page of the book and then wrote the name of the book down on the back of a business card I had in my money clip. A couple of days later, I checked out this book and another Willy Vlautin book ...more
Jan 13, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
LEAN ON PETE is told from the perspective of 15 year old Charley, whose story---while extreme---is in no way unbelievable. He grows up with one parent (his dad) after his mom leaves when he's young. His dad moves around a lot and when we meet Charley they've just arrived in Portland. Often left alone, Charley finds his way to a racetrack, where he starts working for Del Montgomery (a flat-out asshole) and bonds with Lean on Pete, one of Del's horses.

With a voice that is on its surface
Jul 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: folks who like Steinbeck and stark prose and don't care for adjectives or happy endings
Recommended to Ainsley by: Allison Hickey (former boss)
Shelves: read-in-2014
I would never ever ever have picked up this book if it hadn't been given to me by a thoughtful boss when I was sick, and if I hadn't felt guilt-ridden and obligated to read it (18 months later).

And that would've been my loss. Because this is a gritty, harrowing, comically depressing, good book.

Vlautin's austere, flat style really worked for me in depicting the numb, trauma-shaped mind of 15 year-old Charley. Having known folks who had to resort to survival skills in their teens, his portrayal
Second reading of the book, eight years after the first, and while I've recently seen the critically acclaimed movie adaptation, which refamiliarised me with the story, it still didn't take away from the beauty of Vlautin's prose and the depth of humanity he creates in his characters.

Classic Vlautin, in his portrayal of the underdog, and in this case of the underbelly of society in Oregan and beyond, Charley's figurative and literal journey brings him into contact with many characters, few of
When I read Willy Vlautin's debut novel "The Motel Life" a while ago, I was so taken with the way he was able to use his stripped-down prose to evoke tremendously powerful feelings of empathy with his characters, that I immediately promised myself more encounters with his books in the near future. So when I stumbled across his third novel "Lean on Pete", I was literally chomping at the bit to get out of the starting gates (in a story with horseracing as an integral part of the action, the pun is ...more
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a quick read after reading Vlautin's newest book Don't Skip Out on Me. Both books definitely had many similarities, but I preferred Skip Out to Lean on Pete. Don't get me wrong, both books are fantastic - I love his analysis of loneliness and his focus on the down-and-out just trying to live their life - but Skip Out showed a more elevated writing style. I could see his growth as a writer in the newest book. It was an absolute pleasure meeting Mr. Vlautin when he was visiting a book ...more
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it
I love the character of Charley and his relationship with Lean on Pete. He has a sad life for such a young boy with no responsible adult to care for him. Vlautin uses very simple paired back language which is effective as the voice of Charley who is only a young boy.
There is an air of sadness about this book but it stayed with me and I thought it was an interesting read.
Teresa O'Halloran
A coming of age tear jerker. Don't read this if you are any way depressed or feeling down.
Mat Thorburn
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is my kind of book, a realistic story with plausible circumstances and believable characters told with efficient descriptions, to keep the story moving. (In other words no full paragraphs describing someone passing through a doorway) I think that relating to the local scenes and surrounding areas makes it a great read for me also. I recommend it!
Dec 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-heart-portland
Strangely, I'm not sure whether to give this one three stars or five. It's bleak, rather unrelentingly so, and populated by people who scrap and scrabble for everything they get, many of whom operate within rather foggy moral codes. However, there's something true to life about these characters that mostly worked for me when reading them. Del's a pretty predictable asshole, but fun to hate and occasionally surprised me; Ray is just a little complicated--trying to do the best thing for his son, ...more
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wrote a thoughtful review and then when I went to save it, it disappeared! Sorry but I don't have the time and energy to rewrite it.
Bruce Greene
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Willy Vlautin is a Portland phenomenon. That is, he is the lead singer in Richmond Fontaine, a local band, a writer, and a product of anything is possible in Portland. Recently this book won an Oregon book award much to the surprise of many. His writing is sparse, even simple, but it grows on you like a new coffeehouse or a corner pub. Vlautin has the race track in his blood. That's where my attraction first came. His characters are the lowest of the low. They are always drunk or about to get ...more
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult, drama
This was a simply beautiful book. 15 year old Charley Thompson has just one thing he wants to do, and that is play football in the next school year. His father leaves him alone at home most nights and Charley gets a job at the race track with a cranky unscrupulous horse racer. When his father dies after a fight, leaving Charley an orphan, Charley runs away with Lean On Pete, a horse he has gotten fond of, and who has a foot disease causing it to lose more races than it wins. Charley's only ...more
Luanne Ollivier
May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm always a sucker for books and movies that champion the underdog, the overlooked, the hard luckers and the downtrodden. Willy Vlautin'snovel, Lean on Pete, is all that. It's recently been made into a movie.

Charley is fifteen years old and lives with his single father, often fending for himself. But tragedy strikes after they move to Portland, leaving Charley on his own. Determined not to be put into 'the system', Charley sets out to find a job and earn enough money to travel, looking for the
Rani Multani
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Finished in one sitting, loved it.
Feb 13, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review-copies
Charley Thompson is a lonely fifteen year-old boy who lives with his irresponsible single father. The book begins with their arrival in Portland, Oregon, where Charley's father has been offered a new job in a warehouse. Charley is desperate to get a job of his own so that he can earn enough money to put food on the table but the only work he can find is at the Portland Meadows race track with a disreputable horse trainer called Del. Portland Meadows has seen better days and is now home to ...more
Apr 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i'm already a big fan of willy vlautin's, so i was pretty excited to dig into his next novel. and again, he could not disappoint. vlautin is kind of the mark twain of our times... a simply great storyteller. he doesn't fluff up his novels with big words or epic phrasing. he keeps it simple and beautiful and tells us the story of the human condition.

particularly this character, charley, reminds me of huck finn. charley's used to being on his own, takes pretty good care of himself, and manages a
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-book-club
OK, I've been saying this for a while now, but WHAT IS UP WITH THE MASS AMOUNT OF NOVELS ABOUT CHILD SAFETY. I really cannot handle them. Who can read plots that are based on progressive imperilment of children?? It's horrible.

I thought Lean on Pete would be triumphant, would show me the inside of a 15-year old mind, would teach me something new. Instead it is the story of how many cans of spaghetti-os he steals in order to survive. His strategy for defense when he goes to a guy's trailer to
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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
“I was tired of talking to you twenty minutes after I met you ten years ago.” 2 likes
“As I watched them I knew I'd probably never be like that.” 0 likes
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