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Oregon Book Awards Finalist Willy Vlautin

You can cast your vote for the 2015 Readers’ Choice Award online at www.literary-arts.org/voteOBA! The winner will be announced at the Oregon Book Awards ceremony on April 13 at the Gerding Theater at the Armory.

Between now and April 13, we will be featuring all of the 2015 Oregon Book Awards finalists.

TheFree2015 Oregon Book Awards Finalist

The Free by Willy Vlautin





About the book: 

Award-winning author of The Motel Life, Northline and Lean on Pete, Willy Vlautin demonstrates his extraordinary talent for confronting issues facing modern America, illuminated through the lives of three memorable characters who are looking for a way out of their financial, familial, and existential crises in The Free.

While serving in Iraq, veteran Leroy Kervin suffered a traumatic brain injury. Frustrated by the simplest daily routines, and unable to form new memories, he eventually attempts suicide. Lying in a coma, he retreats deep inside the memories locked in his mind. Freddie McCall works two jobs and 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 is a nurse at the local hospital. Though she attends to others’ needs with practical yet firm kindness, including her mentally ill elderly father, she remains emotionally removed. But a new patient, a young runaway, touches something deep and unexpected inside her.

The lives of these characters intersect as they look for meaning in desperate times. Heartbreaking and hopeful, The Free is a testament to the resiliency of the human heart.

About the author:

Born and raised in Reno, Nevada, Willy Vlautin started playing guitar and writing songs as a teenager and quickly became immersed in music. It was a Paul Kelly song, based on Raymond Carver’s Too Much Water So Close to Home that inspired him to start writing stories. Vlautin has published four novels: The Motel Life (2007), Northline (2008), Lean On Pete (2010), and The Free (2014). Vlautin founded the band Richmond Fontaine in 1994. The band has produced nine studio albums to date, plus a handful of live recordings and EPs. Driven by Vlautin’s dark, story-like songwriting, the band has achieved critical acclaim at home and across Europe. 2014 will see the debut album from Vlautin’s new band, The Delines, featuring vocalist Amy Boone (The Damnations). Vlautin currently resides in Scappoose, Oregon

Excerpt from The Free

Leroy Kervin opened his eyes to see a woman in a blue-and-white-starred bikini holding a pneumatic drill. He could see her blond hair and high heels and thin, long legs. For the first time in seven years he could see her without blurred vision. He could see her clearly from the glow of a small colored nightlight.

He lay in a twin bed and looked at the girl. He could read the company name below her on the calendar: JACKSON’S TOOL SUPPLY. He remembered that his cousin worked there. Suddenly he could think things through, he could put things together, where in the past years he’d been unable to. It was like his mind had suddenly walked out of a never-ending snowstorm. Tears dripped down the side of his face in relief. Was he finally free? Was he really himself again?

Willy Vlautin’s website: 



Los Angeles Review of Books

“Vlautin is a writer with incredible heart, and The Free is his best achievement yet, a profound look at characters living on the margins, honest people who have been hit hard by the dark realities of a difficult world. But this is no moral tale. Vlautin doesn’t preach a gospel of the misbegotten, though he does have a very spiritual sense of kindness and compassion. What he does — so marvelously and with such poise — is give us quiet, seemingly banal moments that strike hard with meaning. No writer I’ve ever read can do this quite like Vlautin. No exaggeration.”

The Guardian

“And it is love, in all-American, over-salted, extra-large portions, that in the end makes The Free original and compelling. Leroy’s narrative palls, as dream narratives so often do – they might have told Vlautin that in creative-writing school – but Freddie and particularly Pauline waddle triumphantly out of their heaps of shopping and stacks of bills as convincing, heroic people, and provide ample shoulders over which to peek at Vlautin’s blasted vision of the US.”

New York Times

“The challenge for the writer of social realism is to enlist the plastic qualities of fiction to produce something lifelike, in which artifice creates the shimmer of recognition. In his fourth novel, The Free, Willy Vlautin demonstrates an impressive ability to navigate this challenge…[The] characters face their burdens with unwavering dignity, and Vlautin’s affection for them is evident at every turn. With straightforward economy, he draws us into their seemingly intractable problems, revealing their persistence and decency.

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