If you’re familiar with Willy Vlautin’s books, or his songs with former band Richmond Fontaine or the Delines, you’ll know that his characters tend to attract their fair share of bad luck. There’s a common thread of desperation that unites them. This time around the tale is more amped up than usual. It’s a relatively short book, it could almost be a play, with much of the action taking place over one long night. When we first meet the central character, Lynette, she is working two jobs while studying and also looking after a brother with developmental difficulties. She and her mother are attempting to buy the house they’re renting in Portland until her mother scuppers the plan by splashing out on a new car.
This sets off a train of events that sees Lynette encounter a series of cruel characters while confronting uncomfortable episodes from her past. It’s written in Vlautin’s spare, unflinching yet highly readable prose. The reader is not spared from some disturbing details as Vlautin puts his characters through painful experiences. It’s a bleak yet relatable story. Vlautin’s writing is unsympathetic yet there’s a desperate humanity that comes through in all his books, and it certainly does here. A heartbreaking yet compulsive read.