Monday, May 10, 2021

The Night Always Comes, by Willy Vlautin: Spec-freakin'-tacular

Compact, pitch-perfect, and immensely powerful, The Night Always Comes, by Willy Vlautin, is a crushing look at the failing American dream and the widening divide between those who take (mostly mediocre men) and those who strive against a system stacked against them.

I know I'm in the minority in this, but I don't normally like short novels. I like to sit with a set of characters, with a setting, with a set of themes, etc., for a good long time. But in 200 pages, Vlautin manages to construct a novel that feels fully developed, fully realized (and all-too-real), and fully populated with an amazing cast, some of them good, most of them not, but all of them with a little bit of both.

He gives these people long nearly unbroken conversations with each other, and then frequently juxtaposes those lines of dialogue with long "soliloquies" where characters expound on everything from their relationships to each to other to their simmering rage about their dreams seemingly being out of reach. The effect is that you just feel amazing close to these people in such short amount of time. It almost feels like a play. This shouldn't work, but it does.

I'm being purposefully (and probably annoyingly) vague about the details of the plot. You can read more about that on Goodreads or where ever, but basically, a Portland woman named Lynette pulls out every stop she can imagine to scrape together the money for the down payment on a house. You immediately and unmitigatedly root for Lynette — even as you find out about some of her own past issues. She's as tough as they come, and the 36 hours chronicled in this novel really test her mettle.

This is a spectacular read, gritty and real. It's now the leader in the clubhouse for my favorite book of the year. 

1 comment:

  1. Hey Greg-
    Just finished reading this on your recommendation. Didn't love it, but I liked it for many of the same reasons you mentioned. I thought Vlautin's allegorical reference to the "night" manifesting itself as redemption and/or some version of fate was brilliant, and I said as much in my Goodreads write up. Great review though and thanks again for your continued recs.
    Dave Clot