Title: The Free
Author: Willy Vlautin
About the book(from the cover): In his heartbreaking yet hopeful fourth novel, award-winning author Willy Flautin demonstrates his extraordinary talent for illuminating the disquiet of modern American life, captured in the experiences of three memorable characters looking for meaning in distressing times.
Severely wounded in the Iraq war, Leroy Kervin has lived in a group home for eight years. Frustrated by the simplest daily routines, he finds his existence has become unbearable. An act of desperation helps him disappear deep into his mind, into a world of romance and science fiction, danger and adventure where he is whole once again.
Freddie McCall, the night man at Leroy's group home, works two jobs yet still can't make ends meet. He's lost his wife and kids, and the house is next. Medical bills have buried him in debt, a situation that propels him to consider a lucrative -- and dangerous -- proposition.
Pauline Hawkins, a nurse, cares for the sick and wounded, including Leroy. She also looks after her mentally ill elderly father. Yet she remains emotionally removed, until she meets a young runaway who touches something deep and unexpected inside her.
In crystalline prose, both beautiful and devastating, this "major realist talent" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) considers the issues transforming ordinary people's lives -- the cost of health care, the lack of economic opportunity, the devastating scars of war -- creating an extraordinary contemporary portrait that is also a testament to the resiliency of the human heart.
My Thoughts: Let's start by saying this isn't the type of book that I would normally pick up - and yet I still found it haunting and hard to get out of my head. It is written very realistically, and even though all 3 characters lead bleak, heartbreaking lives - underneath it is a ribbon of hope that keeps them all going. I started to really relate to them and wanted to reach out and help them in some way - forgetting that they weren't real people but characters in a story. That made me think twice about the people that I see everyday and know nothing about. How many of them have been victims of circumstance and are struggling - feeling alone, not knowing how they are going to get through another day.
I will definitely be on the lookout for more books by Willy Vlautin. (This book was read in June of 2016).