While I was away on tour, I read Willy Vlautin’s recent novel, Lean On Pete. The story is told in the (incredibly authentic) voice of fifteen year old Charley Thompson, as he tries to find his place in a world, that at every turn, seems to wrong him. The two constants in his life are the aging quarter horse, Lean On Pete and a photograph of his aunt, who he hasn’t seen in years. There is a deep ache in Vlautin’s story, his characters are startling real and with Charley Thompson… well you just want to take him home and offer him a hot meal and a warm bed.
The spareness of Vlautin’s language captures the voice of the American underclass, those left by the wayside in this fast-paced, consumer-driven world. Charley’s world is one, where scavenging from bins, sleeping in bushes, stealing from corner stores, hitching rides with unhinged characters and some seriously stark violence are part of surviving, but more, they are part of his deeper search for identity.
What has stayed with me and what continues to haunt me is the way Vlautin reflected Charley’s emotions and the state of the world through the eyes of Pete. As Charley’s silent confdant, Pete’s eyes held all of his hopes and fears. His eyes, so clear, so pure were the safest place Charley had ever known.
Pete’s eyes have come to me many times since closing the book and for me, this is the mark of great writing.
Great writing stays with us, becomes part of our own life story… so what are the images/words/lyrics/lines that continue to haunt you from your favourite books/poems/songs?
Let’s share stories…
Oh, and while we’re sharing, here’s the trailer for Lean On Pete: