Saturday, April 30, 2011

Northline, by Willy Vlautin

Once again Willy Vlautin has ripped out my heart and left me bleeding, only to have me beg for more. Kind of like Eminem and Rihanna, without the egomaniacal violent misogynist part. One thing I love about Mr. Vlautin; no matter how devastated you feel at the end of his books, he leaves you with a sliver of grimy hope.

Allison Johnson is a great protagonist. She's more messed up than you, but maybe you've felt exactly the way she does, on your worst days. And maybe you've persevered as she does on your best days, though I think she's got me beat in that category. The story follows her through a harrowing year as she tries to escape her nightmare boyfriend, and manage her monumental anxiety. This girl has made a lot of bad choices, but it's hard to fault her, she is so clearly aching to do better. Her saving grace, aside from being likable, is her imaginary relationship with Paul Newman, who talks her through some of her lowest moments. Once again Willy Vlautin shows us what it's like to be a resident of the fringe of society, where expectations are low and behavior is generally bad.

The writing is the same plain gritty beautiful prose I fell in love with in Lean On Pete. Everyone in this book is damaged, and everyone is fully three-dimensional. Even the terrible boyfriend seems to have a few redeeming qualities, which I think is true of most people. If abusers were 100% awful, most would never get their hands on the fragile souls they feed on.

This book has a soundtrack! It's written and performed by WillyVlautin himself, along with Paul Brainard. A cd accompanies every book! How cool is that? Embedding a song in this post is beyond my technological powers, though I have tried valiantly. Read the book, listen to the music; they're both great.

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