Lean on Pete: A Novel
By Willy Vlautin
Publisher: Harper Perennial
First off: This novel is heartbreaking. Heartbreaking! And memorable.
The narrator, Charlie, is a 15-year-old boy living with his neglectful, penniless, peripatetic father in Portland, Oregon. Charlie, struggling to feed himself while his father disappears for days at a time, takes a job with a race horse owner, himself a washed up, abusive figure. Charlie becomes enamored with one of his boss’s horses, the ailing Lean on Pete.
After Charlie suffers a tragedy, he takes Lean on Pete on a classic hero’s journey across Oregon and farther east. Bad things happen along the way.
Did I mention this book is heartbreaking?
It contains searing descriptions of people who live on the margins of society — the homeless, alcoholics, juvenile offenders, drug addicts.
I like Vlautin’s writing style. It’s spare and direct. The book is compelling read, despite its abounding sadness.
(It’s also, apparently, a 2017 movie with an all-star cast. I haven’t seen it, but it’ll give it a watch.)
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