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Book Notes: ‘Lean on Pete: a Novel,’ by Willy Vlautin

Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin

Lean on Pete: A Novel
By Willy Vlautin
Published: 2010
Publisher: Harper Perennial
ISBN-10: 0061456535
Amazon link

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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