Book Review: The Free by Willy Vlautin

The Free by Willy Vlautin

Title: The Free

Author: Willy Vlautin

Genre: Literary Fiction

Number of Pages: 320

Rating: A

Recommended? Yes

I’ll keep this review short, because I think I’ve conveyed what I love about Willy Vlautin’s writing in previous reviews on this blog. The Free is a bleak but beautifully written novel about three people- a Iraq War veteran with a brain injury, an aide at his group home facing daunting financial problems, and a nurse struggling to care for her mentally ill father.

The veteran, Leroy, tries to kill himself at the beginning and Vlautin tells his story largely through a fantasy narrative he constructs while unconscious in the hospital. This is particularly interesting because the dream sequences have a science fiction theme, but the rest of the book has kind of a kitchen-sink drama feel, with little escape for the characters from their tough and exhausting lives.

I came to care about all three of the protagonists and as always, Vlautin’s writing is plain-spoken and filled with rich and interesting characters and dialogue. His characters are good people in tough situations, but they’re also flawed and make a variety of both good and bad decisions throughout the story. He finds a way to make the troubled lives of average everyday people so riveting it’s hard to put his books down.

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