Mark Stevens's Reviews > Lean On Pete

Lean On Pete by Willy Vlautin
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
2410049
's review

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 are promises of getting a barbecue and a dog, but his father starts getting tangled up with the secretary in the front office where he works as fork lift driver. Soon, Charley has no food and no money and his father isn’t coming home.

Charley dreams of playing football for the new high school. His speed as a runner helps when it comes time to steal cans of soup from the grocery store.

“Lean on Pete” is the name of a horse at the Portland Meadows racetrack. He’s owned by a 70-year-old guy named Del. “He smelled like beer and his eyes were bloodshot and glassy. He had a big gut and was going bald. The hair he did have was mostly gray on the sides and he had it greased back. His right arm was in a cast and he was chewing tobacco.” Del has a flat tire but, with only one arm, needs help.

Soon Charley is in the thick in the world of horses and racing—but Del’s world is down and dirty. Del doesn’t give Charley all that he deserves or what he has worked for, but Charley keeps hoping. Life and luck are day-to-day. Drinking never stops. Charley tries hard to find the gears that will kick his life into a smooth ride, but it’s all a grind. Without giving too much away, soon Charley and Lean on Pete are off on their own—running—for many reasons.

Keeping them both in fuel and food is a constant challenge. Charley sets a course for a long-lost aunt who lives somewhere in Wyoming. Charley is resourceful. He needs what we all need. He must quickly size up strangers. H must quickly measure risk and reward. But you can only test your luck for so long before the hard world takes its toll.

“Lean on Pete” is human and original. Comparisons to Steinbeck and Carver are apt. The ending is about as well-crafted and touching, without giving an ounce away to sentimentality, as any book I’ve read in a long, long time.

Willy Vlautin is also lead singer of the band Richmond Fontaine. The guy clearly has talent to burn.
4 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Lean On Pete.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 17, 2014 – Finished Reading
September 13, 2014 – Shelved

No comments have been added yet.