A Bon Iver Bromance: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Originally published May 2014

Looking for a great piece of chick lit? Try a bromance. A Bon Iver bromance.

Shotgun Lovesongs” is the debut effort of Wisconsin author Nickolas Butler, and as legend goes, inspired in part by fellow Eau Claire resident Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame. I did not know that going into the book, but somehow, it fits with how I envisioned one of the book’s main characters, musician extraordinaire Leland Sutton.

Leland, despite stardom, has kept close ties to his childhood home and best friends, including Henry, Ronny and Kip. And while it’s clear from the beginning he shoulders a brotherly responsibility to Ronny, a former rodeo great reduced to simpleton status thanks to a head injury, it’s Henry he counts as his closest friend. And it’s this relationship which the book centers upon.

It’s easy for us ladies to forget that men have emotions, too. Maybe guys aren’t quite as demonstrative with professions of love for a BFF, but they do have them. For the men of Little Wing, Wisconsin, it’s the boys they grew up with—some, like Kip, leave town to make it big, only to come back and make sure everyone knows you made it. Big. For Leland, his music was his ticket to glory. For Henry, his success is his family and his farm. After all, he married Beth, the childhood love of just about everyone in town.

I love when settings also play characters, and Butler’s Little Wing, to me, is a spot on representation of everything that makes a small town so appealing—mostly, the connections between one person and the next. The community collective that comes together on a main street for weddings and funerals. The no-nonsense, this is what I am attitude that carries a person from one day to the next, with integrity intact.

Butler does an outstanding job bringing these men and this town to life, and not just with typical bromance cliches, even though there is a lot of drinking at the VFW. Butler paints a heartfelt portrait of men who admire, honor, disparage, frustrate, bug and ultimately, love each other. And when a secret threatens Lee and Henry’s friendship, the honesty and simple emotion woven into a barroom conversation is wrenching in the very best way. And the nod to “Love Affair?” Amazeballs.

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