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The Motel Life [Paperback]

Willy Vlautin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

5 April 2007

Opening like an early Tom Waits barstool-tale, The Motel Life tells the story of two brothers, Frank and Jerry Lee. Taking to the road in an attempt to escape the hit and run accident caused by Jerry Lee, the novel goes back to tell the story of their unhappy lives. With intense feeling and compassion, Vlautin explores the frustrations and failed dreams of the two brothers - one a natural storyteller, the other an artist - and renders perfectly the sense of entrapment they feel. Will the kid's death shock them out of their torpor or send them ever deeper into trouble? Can Annie James, a girl from their past, offer them any sort of redemption, however slim?

Interspersed with drawings that come to form an integral part of the narrative, The Motel Life is a poetic, moving, beautifully naïve and tragic fictional debut. Alongside such seminal works as Annie Proulx's Postcards, Raymond Carver's What we talk about when we talk about love and Denis Johnson's Jesus's Son, it should come to be seen as a classic of downbeat American prose.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (5 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571228089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571228089
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 118,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A hugely compassionate, wildly original road movie of a novel.' -- Esquire

'Redemption comes through story-telling, and this is a tale told in a beautiful tone of deadpan wonder.' -- Niall Griffiths, author of Grits and Wreckage

'The finest American novel I’ve read in some time, so simple, so spare and so honest.' -- David Peace, author of GB84

Book Description

A hugely moving slice of downbeat Americana.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effortless transition..... 17 Feb 2006
I'm sure a lot of people will come upon this new novel from Willy Vlautin because they cherish the sublime music he has put out over the years with his bandmates in Richmond Fontaine. Even if this is not the case I would urge readers who enjoy this book to make a beeline for the nearest record store & dig into the rich seam that is the Richmond Fontaine back catalogue.
A coldness pervades the pages of The Motel Life, you can really feel the biting chill of the harsh North American winter and the slow, cold desperation of the characters in this story, as they face up to & look back at the harsh hands life has dealt them.
Yet there is also a warmth, the warmth of the bond between brothers, the warmth that exists between neighbours out here in the chilly, little towns dotting this great continent & the warmth sometimes created by even the most passing of human relationships.
A beautifully rendered story, from a writer with more talent than is possibly fair. Fans of Richmond Fonatine will not be dissapointed.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First rate 14 April 2006
By Fox
It been a long time since I read a book that was so brutally honest and heartbreaking. This is a story of love, not of your sentimental boy\girl type, but of two brothers trying to survive in a harsh world.
The themes that run through this book will be familiar to fans of Richmond Fontaine; loss, abandonment, betrayal, but most of all understanding and compassion. This book is such a natural extension to Willy Vlautin's songwriting, that for the first chapter it felt I was reading lyrics for Richmond Fontaine's next album.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Willy is a natural born story teller! His usual creative outlet Richmond Fontaine a group of alt-country rockers from Portland Oregan have has produced some of the best narative songs I've ever heard. This novel is no exception. I loved every second i spent with this book and missed the characters when I put it down. This is mainly due to the protagonist, Frank, the youngest of the Flanegan brothers who has a penchant for a tall tail. Frank's imagination draws on a rich seam of fanciful and outrageous characters. His vivid descritption and use of the absurd are a stark contrast to the real lives of the brothers as they attempt to deal with a chilling incident that sets them on a self-destrucive trip across America. It is Vlautins ability to weave a beautifully crafted story that propelles this novel and his juants into fantasy fully transport the reader. He has the ability to make the mundane sublime and the ridiculus tangible.
I recomend this novel to anybody with an interest in modern American fiction. In my humble opinion it's an instant downbeat, black hummoured indie classic.
I only hope that Willy will publish another book if his lyrics and his first novel are anything to go by.
Take me to the nearest Casino !!!!!!!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just like his songs 22 May 2007
I bought this book because it is written by the main man in the American band Richmond Fontaine. Don't listen to this band if you want happy country music but listen if you want to be moved by their distinctive style of Americana. The book is not unlike Vlautin's music. Melancholic slices of life. The book is a downbeat and sad story of bad luck which draws you into its world ensuring you care deeply about the unlikely heroes. The book is full of interesting characters richly observed. It is a short novel and non the worse for that. Each chapter is headed by a simple line drawing which adds to the atmosphere created when reading of this world which seems a million miles away from most of our experiences.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very good book. I came to this cold, I've never heard any of Mr Vlautin's music. Beautifully written, with at the heart of the story the essentially tragic relationships between the narrator and his doomed brother, and the narrator and his ex-girlfriend. Moving and sad, without being depressing. Best book I've read in a long time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Little Book 24 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Written with great economy the book tells the story of two brothers who are basically lowlifes one of whom whilst drink driving accidentally kills a kid on on a bicycle. From what unfolds we find that in fact there are no lowlifes, just people trying to get by and make sense of what is happening to them. Despite everything there is a generosity of spirit here together with a lot of insight. Because of this there is a note of optimism and decency pervading the story.
If you are familiar with Willy Vlautin's songs you will already be familiar with the subject matter of this story. It's a great little book with a simple theme. It is written in the first person (by one of the brothers) and the author captures the voice perfectly. There is absolutely no pretentiousness here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to fault 13 Mar 2009
By Honor
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Like many others, I bought this book because I went to a Richmond Fontaine gig and was blown away by the sheer poetic misery of the songs. The skill Willy Vlautin puts into his lyrics has room to shine in this great debut novel. It's the story of two brothers trying and failing to do the best they can on the fringes of American society. Dogged by bad luck at every turn, they somehow stick together through thick and thin. From the very first page there's a pervasive feeling of foreboding, which make you value the small moments of lightness and happiness all the more. A great book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars sublime
`Bad luck, it falls upon people every day. It's one of the only certain truths. It's always on deck, it's always just waiting. Read more
Published 2 months ago by nigel p bird
4.0 out of 5 stars The Motel Life
It took me a while to get into this book, but I'm glad I persisted as it's a engaging and poignant story of two brothers, their love for each other and their determination to live... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Sandy Sharp
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing
I found this a disturbing book but had to finish it to see what happened. Not going to re read this.
Published 14 months ago by Isonor
1.0 out of 5 stars (Very) poor man's Catcher in the Rye
Only got a few chapters in. Struck me as an attempt by the author at writing a novel in a similar vein to Catcher in the Rye. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Hemingway's Proofreader
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read
I wasn't sure what to expect but other reviews seemed good. The story was very predictable but saying that, I still enjoyed it. I wouldn't rush to read any more by Will Vlautin.
Published 15 months ago by A. Bisping
4.0 out of 5 stars It's low life trash
which seems to be a growing genre and can come across a little voyeuristic: the educated reader staring through the glass at the yoohahs, but entertaining, especially the little... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mark Crompton
2.0 out of 5 stars Confusing and lacking
Very confusing story line which does not seem to flow, or am I missing something? I don't get it. Given up having read about a third of the book. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Yvonne
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
Having this in the Kindle Daily Deal will pay off for the publisher in this case - I'll definitely be buying Vlautin's other books after reading this. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Kindler
2.0 out of 5 stars Tried to get into the book
Just got bored with it, didnt hold my interest enough. Tried to read through it again but not for me.
Published 16 months ago by JB
4.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising
Beautifully written, a story of brotherly love and hope. Reminded me of the Sister Brothers, same intensity sucking you in.
Published 16 months ago by Colleen
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