Shotgun Lovesongs is the story of four friends – Henry, Lee, Ronny, and Kip – and their relationships with each other and the small town in Wisconsin in which they were raised. Henry is the rock, Beth’s loving husband, a devoted farmer who looks his friends. Ronny was a former rodeo star before an accident left him mentally impaired. Lee is now a famous musician with tours worldwide and a constant longing to return to his small-town home. Kip has recently purchased the local mill, and has poured everything he has into its restoration. Their history and friendships bind them despite clashes, and the distancing effects of time and geography.
I think I can probably best describe this as having the basic structure of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (albeit with four men in their 30s as opposed to four teenage girls) and the tone similar to Revolutionary Road. At the heart this is a story of friendship in small town America, but the book has a certain darkness and persistence that makes it feel all the more real. The writing is subtle and understated, but powerful and beautiful.
Within the first few pages, I almost felt as if I was on a foreign exchange program, staying with these characters, trying to learn as much as I can about the people and the culture in Little Wing. The descriptions of the town are rich and layered, to the point that I felt like we were only getting to see a small segment of the town. Take, for example, this sentence, from the first chapter,
“Eddy told us all this story one night after a high school football game. (Us vs. Osseo).”
I loved reading this book. It’s fairly short, only about 300 pages, and I found it to be quite quick in terms of pace. There we just enough characters to make it feel familiar, yet not too few that the story becomes claustrophobic. Each operates independently and as the chapter transitions from one to another, the voice seems to truly change. I did not want to put this book down, and I really didn't, having practically read it in one sitting.
However, to level-set for just a minute, this book does not have crazy amounts of drama. Nothing major really happens. If you’re looking for that action packed book or the thrilling plot, this isn’t your novel. This is, on the other hand, a slice of Americana. These characters lead small-town lives, and for the most part have small-town dreams. Nevertheless, I would still highly recommend this novel.