Northline: Willy Vlautin

Willy Vlautin’s style of writing is almost script-like, reminding the reader of a David Lynch film. The story centres around Alison Johnson, a 22-year-old high school drop-out with self-destructive tendencies who lives in Las Vegas, but, through misadventures, finds herself pregnant to her abusive boyfriend. She arranges to give it up for adoption and skips town to start a new life in Reno. Although Alison has had some bad experiences, she has not lost her genuine spirit. However, she has low self-esteem and is constantly taken advantage of. Alison’s saviour is the actor Paul Newman, her imaginary confidant and advisor. Alison has been speaking to Newman since she first began to get blackouts as a teenager and watched his movies as she convalesced. Some characters are repulsive. There are also issues of racism against illegal immigrants, which are put into context and balanced with moments of kindness and strength of the human spirit. There are very real scenes of everyday small-town American life. Vlautin’s writing style puts you right in that place; this is a great little novel with a beautiful soundtrack of Vlautin’s music (he is also a musician in the band Richmond Fountain) that keeps the mood just right.