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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effortless transition.....
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...
Published on 17 Feb. 2006 by G J WILLIAMS

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, despite being a little tame
Whether or not you'll get anything out of this novel very much depends on what you want from a book. If you want tight, cleverly woven and complex plots, then you'd be better advised to go for the latest Dan Brown or Tom Clancy. If, however, such novels leave you cold, and you're the type that isn't overly concerned with 'plot', and prefers something with a little more...
Published 5 months ago by Billy


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effortless transition....., 17 Feb. 2006
By 
G J WILLIAMS (Canmore, Alberta, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Motel Life (Paperback)
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
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This review is from: The Motel Life (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars I swear to god a bird came flying through my motel window, 29 Mar. 2006
By 
P. J. Morey "thegingersting" (Toronto Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Motel Life (Paperback)
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
By 
M. Henshall (Leeds, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Motel Life (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the book, and I haven't even heard any Richmond Fontaine, 21 Aug. 2008
By 
Robert I. Campbell (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Motel Life (Paperback)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Amplifier magazine (USA), 11 Jan. 2007
By 
O. J. B. Gray "Oliver Gray" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Motel Life (Paperback)
The Richmond Fontaine front man's first novel has been described as just like one of his songs, and the comparison isn't inaccurate. He specializes in gritty narratives of real-life Nevada, sometimes violent, mostly sad but always human. The tale of how Frank Flannigan rescues, defends and nurses his brother Jerry Lee when he unwittingly kills a teenage cyclist in a motor accident is presented in a conversational manner, dominated by dialogue that cannot possibly have been studied; every word is genuine and from the heart. The most commonly used words are "I bought a six pack of beer and drank them as I flicked through the TV channels", and they sum up the down-to-earth, non judgemental tone which prevails, as Frank takes to the freezing roads from one small-town motel to the next, rallying his brother's spirits by telling him stories which we can share. Despite everything being so seemingly downbeat, there's a warmth and innocence here which is truly life-affirming. When Frank's inspiring mentor Earl Hurley sells him a bargain car, and when he unexpectedly wins on the horse races, there's a feeling of joy that the world can throw a lifeline to these innocent losers, despite the inevitability of the conclusion. Written in a style which sweeps you along and fills you with affection for the unlikely characters which populate it, The Motel Life is a truly inspiring debut.
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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
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This review is from: The Motel Life (Paperback)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars literary gold, 2 May 2008
This review is from: The Motel Life (Paperback)
As someone who normally avoids fiction, I was attracted to reading the motel life through a love of willy's band Richmond Fontaine, there is an honesty and haunting beauty to his songwriting and in his new found writing career he doesn't disappoint. the manner in which he fleshes out characters and engages you in their lives is a trait other writers would kill for. People say you should never meet people you admire as they are sure to disappoint, I recently met Willy at a concert both he and friend Paul Brainard were headlining in Glasgow, the guy is an absolute gent, I was explaining that my wife had read the book and had loved it, but was concerned about the main character Allison and her plight, Willy took the time to write out a note for my wife explaining that things would work out for allison. Please buy this book and support the writing career of a new author who is head and shoulders above a lot of the dross that tries to pass itself off as modern fiction.
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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
By 
Dr. J. Crawford "jc" (Ely, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Motel Life (Kindle Edition)
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, despite being a little tame, 26 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: The Motel Life (Paperback)
Whether or not you'll get anything out of this novel very much depends on what you want from a book. If you want tight, cleverly woven and complex plots, then you'd be better advised to go for the latest Dan Brown or Tom Clancy. If, however, such novels leave you cold, and you're the type that isn't overly concerned with 'plot', and prefers something with a little more heart, then by all means give it a go.

The Motel Life isn't without its flaws and does show some signs of being a debut novel. One of the most obvious and irritating of these is the 'filler', which uses the story-within-a-story technique to keep things flowing.

The first time the narrator tells another of the characters (to his girlfriend) a little fictional story, you'll smile and read it, seeing it as a nice little touch. The second time he does it (to a waitress in a cafe), you'll probably read it again, but begin to wonder what the the author's motives are. The third, fourth and fifth times he does it (to his brother), you'll grow impatient and probably skip the half a dozen pages, to the point at which the real story resumes.

To me, these stories-within-a-story are a major weak point in the novel, and it's a real shame the author gave up on the main theme by so often resorting to this filler technique.

It's also worth mentioning that I bought this book because I was looking for a decent road-trip novel, and while the first few chapters suggest this is what the reader is going to get, I never really felt like the 'road trip' ever took place, as the characters stay for so long in each of the various locations (of which there's only three). Moreover, each of these locations are very familiar to the characters, and I never really got a sense of them being 'on the road', in the sense I do with true road trip novels such as HST's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

The writing in this book is incredibly simple, narrated in the first-person by someone whose age I struggled to determine. The way in which the two main characters speak – particularly the narrator's brother – suggest mid to late teens, but the brief back-story of their lives suggests older.

On the whole – the story-within-a-story tactic aside – I enjoyed this book. I identified with and liked the characters, who were full, rounded and well-written.

Oh, and one more little point before I close. I could have done without the little sketches at the opening of each chapter, as it did make me feel a little like I was reading something aimed at the 'young adult' market.
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The Motel Life
The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin (Paperback - 5 April 2007)
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