The Free (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

The Free by Willy Vlautin is a devastating look at the underside of the American Dream. The unconscious adventures of an injured young veteran weave among the stories of Freddie, working two minimum-wage jobs to pay off enormous medical bills, one job in the group home where Leroy's dream life begins; and Pauline, the intensive care nurse taking care of Leroy through long nights in the hospital. The hard world of this book is inhabited by good people whose lives have been stunted by collision with birth defects, mental illness, drug addiction and sexual abuse. They struggle bravely against relentless impoverishment, broken promises and government indifference. What could have devolved into a cold political polemic, in Vlautin's capable hands, is instead a tender depiction of the least entitled among us living brave lives with integrity and compassion.

— Kathy

— From Carol's Staff Favorites

February 2014 Indie Next List

“There may not be another writer whose new work I look more forward to than Willy Vlautin. With just three novels under his belt, he's managed to create a collection of work that reflects the reality of the down-and-out working class in modern America. In his best book yet, the plights of three main characters intertwine as each struggles to overcome hardship and create a better life despite the odds being stacked against them. In a story full of heartbreak yet somehow ultimately uplifting, Vlautin once again demonstrates the power and beauty to be found in our own humanity.”
— Cody Morrison, Square Books, Oxford, MS


Award-winning author of The Motel Life, Northline and Lean on Pete, Willy Vlautin demonstrates his extraordinary talent for confronting issues facing modern America, illuminated through the lives of three memorable characters who are looking for a way out of their financial, familial, and existential crises in The Free.

While serving in Iraq, veteran Leroy Kervin suffered a traumatic brain injury. Frustrated by the simplest daily routines, and unable to form new memories, he eventually attempts suicide. Lying in a coma, he retreats deep inside the memories locked in his mind. Freddie McCall works two jobs and 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 is a nurse at the local hospital. Though she attends to others' needs with practical yet firm kindness, including her mentally ill elderly father, she remains emotionally removed. But a new patient, a young runaway, touches something deep and unexpected inside her.

The lives of these characters intersect as they look for meaning in desperate times. Heartbreaking and hopeful, The Free is a testament to the resiliency of the human heart. The Free also includes a P.S. Section (additional material in the back of the book) with interviews, insights, and more about the author. Vlautin is the founder of the alternative country band Richmond Fontaine and his debut novel, The Motel Life, has been made into a film starring Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, Dakota Fanning, and Kris Kristofferson.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780062276742
ISBN-10: 0062276743
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: February 4th, 2014
Pages: 297
Language: English