The Free Lib/E (Compact Disc)
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
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
In his heartbreaking yet hopeful fourth novel, award-winning author Willy Vlautin 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.