Lean On Pete by Willy Vlautin

Someone recommended Willy Vlautin on Facebook, I think it might have been Kevin Wignall, and I picked up Lean On Pete for my Kindle for $.99.  A low risk purchase obviously. I am not sure what I was expecting but it was definitely a unique style and perspective:

Lean on PeteFifteen-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 of a run-down horse track. Charley’s only comforts are his friendship with a failing racehorse named Lean on Pete and a photograph of his only known relative. In an increasingly desperate circumstance, Charley will head east, hoping to find his aunt who had once lived a thousand miles away in Wyoming — but the journey to find her will be a perilous one.

The story certainly had some interesting characters and unique perspectives but, man, it was pretty brutal and depressing.

Not much of a plot either. The whole story is Charley trying to find some semblance of stability or normalcy and failing. Bad things happen. Rinse, Repeat. Something good finally happens to Charley: the end.

You really wanted something good to happen, some ray of sunshine in this bleak world Charley finds himself in. That is what kept me reading I guess.

But for long stretches of the story events felt random and disconnected. And increasingly hard to believe. Something bad happens and Charley runs. From Portland to Wyoming.

Perhaps that was the point, to highlight the constantly shifting and terrifying world of being young and homeless, or even young and without appropriate parental support.  Forced to steal and hide and try desperately to find a way out. There is no neat plot line or process.  It is just a constant fight to stay alive and to keep going.

As I said, interesting at times and some of the characters were well done. But just too bleak and depressing for me.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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