Read Lean On Pete by Willy Vlautin Online


Fifteen-year-old Charley Thompson wants a home, food on the table, and a high school he can attend for more than part of a year. But as the son of a single father working in warehouses across the Pacific Northwest, Charley's been pretty much on his own. When tragic events leave him homeless weeks after their move to Portland, Oregon, Charley seeks refuge in the tack room oFifteen-year-old Charley Thompson wants a home, food on the table, and a high school he can attend for more than part of a year. But as the son of a single father working in warehouses across the Pacific Northwest, Charley's been pretty much on his own. When tragic events leave him homeless weeks after their move to Portland, Oregon, Charley seeks refuge in the tack room of a run-down horse track. Charley's only comforts are his friendship with a failing racehorse named Lean on Pete and a photograph of his only known relative. In an increasingly desperate circumstance, Charley will head east, hoping to find his aunt who had once lived a thousand miles away in Wyoming — but the journey to find her will be a perilous one. In Vlautin's third novel, Lean on Pete, he reveals the lives and choices of American youth like Charley Thompson who were failed by those meant to protect them and who were never allowed the chance to just be a kid....

Title : Lean On Pete
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780061456534
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 304 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Lean On Pete Reviews

  • Trixie Fontaine
    2018-12-28 00:47

    I loved Motel Life so when I saw this Willie Vlautin prominently displayed at the library I quickly snatched it up, forgetting that I'd planned to avoid it because it sounded WAY TOO DAMNED SAD. I made it through though, but crunched it into basically one sitting because it was more difficult to live with than Motel Life (because the main character is so young, I think) but again, it wasn't as unbearably depressing as I'd feared.The other reason I read it quickly? Because it's amazing. Even when living in a house, Charley is on the road . . . it's a road story, beloved animal story, SURVIVAL story (one young person fending for himself in many hostile environments). Yes, we hear what Charley has to eat and/or drink (or doesn't get to eat or drink) whenever he eats or drinks. Contrary to what one reviewer said, IT'S NOT ALWAYS CHEESEBURGERS, and contrary to what many reviewers said, these details are actually important . . . they are a significant part of the story and fraught with tension because, again, it's a story of survival. For some people that IS the story: whether or not they get to eat anything that day and the ends they have to go to to have their basic fucking needs met. And how heartbreaking it is that a child's life should be consumed with the things so many people take for granted in the US (and how it can break a child to not be able to take them for granted and have to take that responsibility himself).But that's not all of the book . . . it's constantly in motion while also being extremely persuasive about social welfare issues. There are metaphors in here and scathing criticisms of certain kinds of hypocrites, but none of it is heavy-handed. The story-telling is never compromised. By the end of the book, though, you are bleeding inside begging for someone to take care of this kid. This is the new old west.Sidenote: why do people here take up three and four paragraphs with their version of "this is the story of . . . " when there's already a much more objective DESCRIPTION of the book up at the top of every page? The funny part is that people who do that never seem to get it right. I wish they'd write their responses to the book and analysis instead of their skewed synopses.

  • Malbadeen
    2018-12-30 21:47

    On the bright side, Charlie (main character) never got molested and never prostituted himself. pshew.Willy won!!!, willy!

  • Michael
    2019-01-15 20:53

    Review from Badelynge.Willy Vlautin is the frontman of a band called Richmond Fontaine who also writes novels. Lean on Pete is his third such book. It introduces us to Charley Thompson, a 15 year old boy who lives an unsettled life with his dad. Pretty much left to his own devices and uprooted from his previous life in Spokane, Charley tries to make the best of things. He pines for his old home and friends while doing his best to stock a fridge that is as neglected as himself. His dad isn't a bad sort but doesn't make spending time with his son a high priority. Charley just wants a bit of stability in his life. He doesn't get it. Tragedy and bad luck dog the boy's steps from page to page and an already introverted personality starts to slide. The book charts an emotional and fraught journey as Charley takes responsibility for a no-hope race horse called Pete. It's all told in a spare and economical first person, with the eye and imagination of a 15 year old. Is there no hope for Charley? Can he save Pete? There is only one way to find out.This review is from an uncorrected proof.

  • Jamie
    2018-12-23 21:43

    I heard Willy Vlautin speak at Live Wire Radio in Portland years ago and have been entranced by his authenticity ever since. So when our book club decided to have the next gathering at the local horse racing venue, this book, set around Portland Meadows, seemed apt.His prose is simple and propulsive. But the emotional weight of what happens on the page is powerful and unsparring. I read LEAN ON PETE in one sitting, could't walk away. Looking forward to talking about it at the track.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-01-06 16:55

    Just could not go the distance with this one- too depressing and the plodding writing style drove me nuts (he went here, he went there, he showered, then he ate). Gah!

  • Tina
    2018-12-27 17:50

    LEAN ON PETE is told from the perspective of 15 year old Charley, whose story---while extreme---is in no way unbelievable. He grows up with one parent (his dad) after his mom leaves when he's young. His dad moves around a lot and when we meet Charley they've just arrived in Portland. Often left alone, Charley finds his way to a racetrack, where he starts working for Del Montgomery (a flat-out asshole) and bonds with Lean on Pete, one of Del's horses.With a voice that is on its surface straightforward and simple, Vlautin's novels are filled with so much loneliness and longing that---though you could almost read one in a sitting---you'd depress yourself if you did. LEAN ON PETE is no exception. As in his first book, MOTEL LIFE, Vlautin fills LEAN ON PETE with stories within the story. It's something he can't help but to do ... they seem to fall out of him. Without spoiling too much, this book did leave me in tears at one point, and had me cursing at another---both at a character and at Vlautin for creating the character. Charley's life is filled with loneliness, but in the end you're left with a glimmer of hope. It's not a tidy ending, but that's good ... I hate tidy endings as they rarely exist in reality.

  • Kevin
    2019-01-04 20:57

    Featuring a fifteen-year-old boy with a string of hard luck, the new book by Willy Vlautin mines a similar storyline as his first two books and it's just as good. You may think it would be tiring to always write about the depressing lives of people but Willy does it so well, giving his readers a shining thread of hope to hold on to throughout. At times the book had the feel of a classic kid's adventure ala Huck Finn and I admit I did tear up a few times while reading it. The Portland setting at the beginning was cool too.

  • Gerhard
    2018-12-31 23:36

    When I read Willy Vlautin's debut novel "The Motel Life" a while ago, I was so taken with the way he was able to use his stripped-down prose to evoke tremendously powerful feelings of empathy with his characters, that I immediately promised myself more encounters with his books in the near future. So when I stumbled across his third novel "Lean on Pete", I was literally chomping at the bit to get out of the starting gates (in a story with horseracing as an integral part of the action, the pun is most definitely intended!) Although all the elements that I had come to expect from my sole reading of Vlautin were abundantly present -- from the ultra realistic dialogue to the compassionate rendering of figures marching to a different drummer out there on the inhospitable periphery of society -- I was not really able to connect woth the novel on the same intense level that made of "The Motel Life" such an exhilirating read. At the start of the novel, young fifteen-year-old protagonist Charley Thompson and his dad are new arrivals in Portland, Oregon. The father -- a forklift operator -- had been disenchanted with his situation in Spokane, Washington, resulting in a decision to move south in search of greener pastures. Charley's mother has not been in the picture for many years. Although a good relationship of sorts seems to be in place between Charley and his dad, the boy is more often than not left to his own devices -- on occasion having to fend for himself when it comes to issues of basic surviving such as the provision of food. The father is not a heartless brute by a long chalk: when he's home he will provide Charley with money and show an interest in his general well-being. But then he plunges back into his world of swing and graveyard shifts and womanizing, and simply stays away for days at a time. Vlautin hints at previous instances of drug consumption and casual sex. Currently the father is involved in a liaison with Lynn, a secretary at the firm where he works. Lynn is estranged from her Samoan husband, and this state of affairs will be instrumental in steering Charley's life in a totally unexpected direction. On one of his runs around the neighborhood -- Charley has hopes of getting onto a football team when school resumes in August and until practices start he tries to keep in shape -- he comes across the Portland Meadows Race Track. There he meets the disgruntled trainer Del Montgomery and starts working for him as a trainee groom. From then on, his life becomes inextricably linked to the race track. Charley is particularly attracted to Lean on Pete, one of Del's many horses, and over time he forms an strong bond with the animal. After a change occurs in Charley's domestic circumstances, he is more or less dependent on himself for his survival, with Dell proving to be a volatile employer and very irregular in his payment of Charley's wages. When Lean on Pete starts showing signs of a degenerative disease of the feet, the future does not look very promising for the horse. When it begins to dawn on Charley that a worthless horse is a dead loss to a man like Del Montgomery, he begins to formulate a plan to resue Lean on Pete from an ignominious end in a Mexican slaughter-house. Vlautin does a very credible job in fleshing out Charley Thompson's character. I admired the way in which this resourceful young man nearly always rises to the occasion, no matter how bleak the situation he finds himself in. And make no mistake -- some of it is very grim indeed as Vlautin conjures up a plethora of disagreeable figures to cross Charley's path. And the author does not hesitate to show the young man's more vulnerable side. When everything conspires to bring him down, he does what any half-grown boy would do: he finds an outlet in tears. This has the effect of making Charley even more likeable than he already is. Vlautin has Charley telling many things concerning his past life to Lean on Pete in some movingly confidential conversations he has with the horse -- a very useful device that allows the reader to gain more insight into Charley's background. This is very much the Vlautin recipe as before, but maybe slightly muted here. I really wish that I could have liked it more than I ended up doing. Still, worth reading for the author's lean prose and the picture he paints of an America a few steps removed from the one normally depicted.

  • Mat Thorburn
    2018-12-25 17:57

    This is my kind of book, a realistic story with plausible circumstances and believable characters told with efficient descriptions, to keep the story moving. (In other words no full paragraphs describing someone passing through a doorway) I think that relating to the local scenes and surrounding areas makes it a great read for me also. I recommend it!

  • Jean
    2019-01-01 00:38

    The point-of-view character is Charley Thompson, 15 years old. He is the loneliest, most disadvantaged, bravest, most innocent, ingenious, and eternally hopeful survivor I've come across in literature in a long time. He has something in common with the "Noble Savage" and yet he is not wild. He is amazingly civilized (except for table manners) for all the neglect and disinterest he has suffered. He lived with his dad after his mom--someone named Nancy-- abandoned him as a baby. The relationship between Charley and his dad was precisely drawn--the dad loved his son but was driven by his addictions. (He could cook though, when so inclined.) At his dad's whims, Charley has moved from place to place, sometimes attending school, and knowing only one relative--an aunt somewhere, sometime ago in Wyoming. Arriving in Portland, Charley is left to his own pursuits, is often hungry, without money, always lonely. Running helps him cope. He meets a shifty horse owner at the Portland Meadows racetrack and takes a job, meets a horse--Lean on Pete-- who eventually becomes Charley's substitute family. Charley witnesses a brutal attack on his dad, and after the dad dies, Charley is homeless and moves in to a tack room at the racetrack, spends happy moments confiding in Pete.Charley's goals are to find a loving family home, go to school, and play football. The more desperate Charley's living situation becomes, the more chances he is willing to take. He frees Pete from his similarly disadvantaged life, and they go on the road in search of a better life for both. There is a touching scene over halfway through the book where Charley spills out his heartfelt wishes for a better life to Pete. A tragic scene unfolds soon after, but in the end, Charley's hopes are coming true. The book ends in the middle of a happy conversation between Charley and his aunt, and I wished for a bit more resolution about some of the major events that occurred in Portland. I began to grow tired of the endless listing of the foods Charley managed to buy, beg, or steal, although I know that being constantly hungry is one of the hallmarks of a 15-year old boy. This was emphasized, and perhaps necessarily so, as Charley recounted his tale. I also thought that there was too much of aimless wandering and cruel incidents toward the end of the book; almost like the author didn't want to end the story too quickly. But he could have ended it sooner in my opinion. One less attack, one less hunger situation, would have been fine. I admired the writer's precision and the voice he adopted for teen age Charley; it seemed just right, and I could picture this boy. Other characters were also cleanly drawn: Charley's dad, the shifty horse owner Del. Others who appeared briefly were easy to picture; most of them were people you'd fear to find in a dark alley or in a car stopping along the roadway. Most of the women were unattractive and desperate but quite humanly possible. I appreciated that cruelty to horses by the race track crowd was hinted at but not graphically shown. The innuendos and mention of 'buzzers,' mysterious pills, and strange treatments noticed by Charley, and odd behaviors of the horses were enough to indicate the suffering these animals endured.

  • Mark Stevens
    2018-12-26 22:42

    Willy Vlautin’s style is calm and clear-eyed. Zero flash. The prose is dry-eyed. The opening lines: “When I woke up that morning it was still pretty early. Summer had just begun and form where I lay in my sleeping bag I could see out the window. There were hardly any clouds and the sky was clear and blue.” The narrator is fifteen-year-old Charley Thompson. He has just moved to Portland to Spokane with his father. they are starting over. They are in a rundown house next to a trailer park. There are promises of getting a barbecue and a dog, but his father starts getting tangled up with the secretary in the front office where he works as fork lift driver. Soon, Charley has no food and no money and his father isn’t coming home. Charley dreams of playing football for the new high school. His speed as a runner helps when it comes time to steal cans of soup from the grocery store. “Lean on Pete” is the name of a horse at the Portland Meadows racetrack. He’s owned by a 70-year-old guy named Del. “He smelled like beer and his eyes were bloodshot and glassy. He had a big gut and was going bald. The hair he did have was mostly gray on the sides and he had it greased back. His right arm was in a cast and he was chewing tobacco.” Del has a flat tire but, with only one arm, needs help.Soon Charley is in the thick in the world of horses and racing—but Del’s world is down and dirty. Del doesn’t give Charley all that he deserves or what he has worked for, but Charley keeps hoping. Life and luck are day-to-day. Drinking never stops. Charley tries hard to find the gears that will kick his life into a smooth ride, but it’s all a grind. Without giving too much away, soon Charley and Lean on Pete are off on their own—running—for many reasons. Keeping them both in fuel and food is a constant challenge. Charley sets a course for a long-lost aunt who lives somewhere in Wyoming. Charley is resourceful. He needs what we all need. He must quickly size up strangers. H must quickly measure risk and reward. But you can only test your luck for so long before the hard world takes its toll.“Lean on Pete” is human and original. Comparisons to Steinbeck and Carver are apt. The ending is about as well-crafted and touching, without giving an ounce away to sentimentality, as any book I’ve read in a long, long time. Willy Vlautin is also lead singer of the band Richmond Fontaine. The guy clearly has talent to burn.

  • Diener
    2018-12-30 20:50

    I saw this book prominently displayed at my local independent bookstore a couple of weeks ago. I read the back cover and discovered that the writer lives in Oregon, and that the story is mostly set in Portland. So I was instantly intrigued. I then scanned excerpts of the positive reviews found on the first page of the book and then wrote the name of the book down on the back of a business card I had in my money clip. A couple of days later, I checked out this book and another Willy Vlautin book entitled Northline from the library. I devoured Lean on Pete in about 3-4 sittings. What some critics say about Vlautin being a 21st century Steinbeck certainly rings true. Vlautin's prose is simple on the surface, but there is so much to unpack underneath the surface that one reading probably does not do this novel justice. For three of the five years I spent as a high school English teacher, I taught Of Mice and Men to my 11th-graders English students and felt the same way about that book. I had not previously read of Mice and Men when I first taught the book to my students. We read the book aloud in class, and because I taught four sections of 11th grade English, I was able to read the book four times that first year I taught it. And I remember how fun it was to discover new treasures with my students, complex treasures buried underneath, and sometimes even just below, what appears to be a fairly simple surface. And so it probably is with Lean on Pete and other Vlautin novels. If I were still teaching, I would definitely teach Lean on Pete, whose protagonist is a 15-year-old boy, to my students.

  • Bruce Greene
    2019-01-21 19:52

    Willy Vlautin is a Portland phenomenon. That is, he is the lead singer in Richmond Fontaine, a local band, a writer, and a product of anything is possible in Portland. Recently this book won an Oregon book award much to the surprise of many. His writing is sparse, even simple, but it grows on you like a new coffeehouse or a corner pub. Vlautin has the race track in his blood. That's where my attraction first came. His characters are the lowest of the low. They are always drunk or about to get drunk. They come from dysfunctional homes, have often committed crimes, some more serious than others, and of course have fleeting, equally dysfunctional relationships. Lean on Pete is the story of a boy's desire to save a race horse on the way out. Set against the background of Portland Meadows (also the low end of race tracks) his desire to bond and ultimately save Lean on Pete forms the fairly predictable plot. There are some scenes of rural match races in Eastern Oregon that could form the basis of a future novel. Oh yeah, and did I mention that Willy looks and sings like a young Woody Guthrie. Woody also wrote 4 books, so the comparison is not without merit. If you like reading about life in the underbelly with a Northwest twist, you might like Willy Vlautin; his books and his music.

  • Ainsley
    2019-01-08 20:56

    I would never ever ever have picked up this book if it hadn't been given to me by a thoughtful boss when I was sick, and if I hadn't felt guilt-ridden and obligated to read it (18 months later). And that would've been my loss. Because this is a gritty, harrowing, comically depressing, good book. Vlautin's austere, flat style really worked for me in depicting the numb, trauma-shaped mind of 15 year-old Charley. Having known folks who had to resort to survival skills in their teens, his portrayal of Charley's emotions, thoughts and behaviors seemed true. To me, this is a book about human brokenness. It's beautiful, horrible, and haunting at turns.At one point half-way through the book Charley says "maybe this is the start of a lucky run." I had to laugh and hold my breath while I turned the page. Don't toy with me, Vlautin! In a book like this one, that's a proclamation like "thank God I'm the only one home tonight!" at the start of a horror film. We all know Charley's only likely to barely scrape by with the hope of a lucky run at the end.

  • Caroline
    2019-01-10 16:55

    This was a simply beautiful book. 15 year old Charley Thompson has just one thing he wants to do, and that is play football in the next school year. His father leaves him alone at home most nights and Charley gets a job at the race track with a cranky unscrupulous horse racer. When his father dies after a fight, leaving Charley an orphan, Charley runs away with Lean On Pete, a horse he has gotten fond of, and who has a foot disease causing it to lose more races than it wins. Charley's only possession is a photograph of himself and an aunt. His travels with Lean On Pete take them across the country to find her, hopefully in Wyoming. Charley's sparse narrative is the perfect showcase for his honest and straightforward but sometimes too trusting nature. He is the recipient of many kindnesses from strangers as well as the victim of cruelty and meanness. At all times though, he maintains an impressive ability to think on his feet and make the most of any luck that comes his way.

  • Nigel Bird
    2018-12-29 17:43

    There are books that I can’t really fully explain in terms of why they were so enjoyable or had such an impact. ‘Lean On Pete’ is one of them. I’m going to try and unpick that for myself in this here in this review.The work seems really simple in the structure as a whole and in the clean style of writing, yet the impact it had on me was far more powerful than this simplicity might normally allow.Before the novel begins, there’s a quote from John Steinbeck:‘It is true that we are weak and sick and ugly and quarrelsome but if that is all we ever were, we would millenniums ago have disappeared from the face of the earth.’I mention this because it has been perfectly selected for a book that reflects something of that tone all the way through.Charley Thompson has grown up in a single-parent family with his father at the helm. His father, a loving and kind one in many ways, is unreliable, unpredictable and liable to leave Charlie for days on end to fend for himself. This leaves Charley with the TV and the movie screen for company, cans of food to eat and a desire to run and keep fit so that he can keep alive his hopes of playing football. Football seems to allow Charley to feel part of something bigger than himself. To provide him with a family that works together. It’s important.This immediately resonates and creates emotional waves. A human adults need sex, shelter and food to exist and surely human children need food, shelter, companionship and nurturing to survive; because Charley has been stripped of some of these, it’s impossible not to feel for him from the outset.As he moves through the days, he stumbles into a job at the track working for a shady trainer and his horses. Of the horses, it’s Lean On Pete who captures Charley’s affections and it’s not long before Charley and Pete take off on a trip across country to Wyoming where there might at last be a haven for them.I really don’t want to give away anything about the story in the hope that you’ll go and find out for yourself. I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy it, whoever you are.Rolled up in this adventure are many scenes that would work as self-contained pieces. When put together, there’s a real sense of movement and hugely conflicting measures of hope and despair; it’s that ever-tipping balance between these two that offers the story its energy and had me completely captured as a reader. Like that quote in the beginning suggests, there’s good and bad in everyone and there’s enough of the latter to keep the species going. People react to Charley and his situation in many ways. There are the randomly generous, the needy, those who switch from generosity to bitterness without warning, the slippery and the aggressive. All of them are human and many of them are living in situations that all-too-often the media and those in power either have forgotten about or are busily sweeping under the carpet.Charley is no exception to the rule of good and bad. He’s a survivor, whether he knows it or not. He’s learned enough from his father and from his time surviving alone to get by. In order to do so, he has to turn to crime and violence. One of the things I loved about the piece is how much I excused all of these acts in Charley because of his needs, whether to eat or to defend himself. That shows the power of the writing for me. There’s also one moment when he’s acting purely out of pride and from anger and I know that if I’d been in his position I’d have done the same, so I was still on side even then. In fact, the blur between good and bad goes far enough to remind that these are relative terms in themselves and will be defined differently by every nation, culture and individual (and that’s impressive in a book).Half way through, I started to worry for the ending. I was hoping all the way that everything would finish with a scent of roses and Charley and Lean On Pete would live forever on the Big Rock Candy Mountain. That tore me. Much as I wanted it to be so, I couldn’t bear the idea that such an epic book might turn out to be a mushy fairy story. The hard edges of life and of Charley’s existence, even though they’d been handled with subtlety and dexterity, couldn’t allow for such a shiny finish. Thankfully, and it can’t have been an easy job, Vlautin’s denouement is superb, capturing something of the bitter sweet conflict of the whole book. I also had a wonderful occurrence with this story that doesn’t happen often. I’d be walking in the countryside or washing or cooking and I’d catch myself wondering how Pete and Charley were doing. I’d picture them on the road, getting by and enjoy the moments of their safety while worrying for them all the while.To summarise, I loved the book and am extremely grateful to the friend who recommended it for doing so. It has a real power and a stunning sense of reality that makes me want to be more observant and more generous in the world.I’ve also bought the previous 2 novels by Vlautin and I’ll be picking up the next as soon as it’s out early next year.Tremendous.

  • Erin
    2018-12-23 16:52

    i'm already a big fan of willy vlautin's, so i was pretty excited to dig into his next novel. and again, he could not disappoint. vlautin is kind of the mark twain of our times... a simply great storyteller. he doesn't fluff up his novels with big words or epic phrasing. he keeps it simple and beautiful and tells us the story of the human condition. particularly this character, charley, reminds me of huck finn. charley's used to being on his own, takes pretty good care of himself, and manages a pretty decent viewpoint of the world despite the fact that his life is not terribly enriching. charley finds himself in a new town (portland, or) and in need of a job. he meets del montgomery, an old-timer who races horses at pitifully small and decrepit race tracks around oregon and washington. he begins assisting del with his horses and befriends one of them -- lean on pete. life gets tough for charley, and next thing you know he and pete are in search of his long lost aunt.vlautin's storytelling is so powerful, and charley so damned likable, i admit i had tears in my eyes in several places along this novel. i was compelled to keep reading to find out what was going to happen to charley and pete. vlautin doesn't disappoint, right up to the last page.vlautin's other job is vocals in the band richmond fontaine, a portland area band. great music, you should really check them out. my reason for mentioning this is that vlautin's previous works have included a cd of songs paired well with the pace of his novels. this one has no cd, which is sad for me, as i would have loved to heard the mood vlautin created for this particular novel. bottomline: i continue to be excited and moved by vlautin's novels.

  • Sandy
    2019-01-01 22:50

    This book was a revelation to me. I know that grinding poverty exists - that many humans are this destitute - but never before has a book conveyed it as clearly as this one does. Charley's experiences seemed to fly by at hyper speed. I cannot imagine how anyone could be clever enough to survive the unrelenting dangers 15 year old Charley faced, or resilient enough to keep moving forward in search of a safe and caring place to be. For every harmful person who abused and mistreated Charley, there seemed to be one more kind person to balance the scales of evil with good. My heart was broken and it feels as if it will never mend because of what happened to Lean On Pete on their journey.

  • Greg
    2019-01-06 19:41

    Liked it better than The Motel Life. Lots of echoes of Steinbeck, McCarthy, Bukowski, etc. in a good way. The story is told simply but vividly. As I read it there were many places where I considered the multitude of choices Vlautin had to describe situations, places, events, yet he always seemed to choose only what was necessary, direct, and packed the most into a small space, much like Charley in the novel.

  • Mark Enderle
    2019-01-04 20:53

    I don't know who I felt worse for, Charley or Pete, but either way it's a testament to Vlautin's story telling ability that such spare prose could evoke such identification with the characters.

  • Nicole
    2018-12-27 20:29

    Strangely, I'm not sure whether to give this one three stars or five. It's bleak, rather unrelentingly so, and populated by people who scrap and scrabble for everything they get, many of whom operate within rather foggy moral codes. However, there's something true to life about these characters that mostly worked for me when reading them. Del's a pretty predictable asshole, but fun to hate and occasionally surprised me; Ray is just a little complicated--trying to do the best thing for his son, but also trying to enjoy his own life at the same time; Charley, our point of view character, is...well, a bit of an enigma. He obviously cares for Pete, and this emotion is a driving one in the plot of the book. He's also rather innocent despite the things he witnesses and does. He's big on making assumptions, though, particularly when faced with authority figures--his insistence on running every chance he gets doesn't always make sense and isn't always helpful for him. The biggest problem I had connecting with him as a character is that his reactions to most of the crazy/horrible things that happen or have happened--with one major exception--are pretty flat. The death of a family member and getting a free cheeseburger would elicit approximately the same response from him, which leaves me more detached from his plight than I need to be for this story to really strike home. Something else that I really liked was the gritty, behind-the-scenes glimpses of horse racing/owning/riding at competitive semi-professional levels. There were a number of great details in here that were handled very well (hotwalker, navicular, some of the tricks Del uses in the pre-season races). Vlautin could have quite easily spent pages explaining these things to us precisely, through all kinds of (mostly transparent) literary devices, and I might have come away understanding a little more about them, but it wouldn't have been necessary to get to the core of what they did for this story and these characters. Ultimately, I'm relieved that he trusted his readers enough to not weigh us down with this information.There's always a flip side, though, isn't there? In this instance, I keep coming back to Charley. His intense insecurity at the end feels a little awkward and forced, and his aunt's certainty that everything will be just fine and he won't be in trouble for the litany of laws he's broken across several states (generally with his heart in the right place, but the naiveté of his actions at times is hard to swallow) seems to stem from the same sort of refusal to face reality that helped get Charley facing all that trouble in the first place. Maybe this is where I stand: In this novel, Vlautin handles sparse prose deftly, consistently piecing together exactly the right number of brushstrokes to give us the shape of an image without ever hammering details into the ground. The one place this skill fails him is in the development of his main character, Charley, who flatlines too often and is just a little too disconnected from reality to be a realistic member of the rather harsh one in which he's living.

  • Kend
    2019-01-01 21:56

    Looking over the reviews of Willy Vlautin's Lean on Pete, I can easily see why I didn't pick this book up on my own. On the one hand, you have a vocabulary of sentiment: a boy befriends a down-and-out horse destined for the glue factory, is orphaned when his father has a romantic fling with a woman married to a man with a temper, and ends up taking a road-trip across the American West in a heart-wrenching coming-of-age story. On the other hand, you have a veritable glossary of terms I normally associate with cowboys and the Perfect American Book: I've lost count of the Amazon, Goodreads, and other reviews that throw out words like "gritty," "knife-like prose," "spare," "clean as bone,""downbeat,"and "original" in reference to this book. Which is, all too often, just a creative way of saying we value unhappy endings. Luckily for me, I actually ended up liking Lean on Pete. It's not half so gritty as the book critics would have you believe, and it's not even a fraction as sentimental as the plot makes room for. Usually, when a book has the name of a dog or a horse in its title, it's the kind of book that's trying to make you cry. I'm thinking of Marley & Me. I still remember being stuck in a theater full of sobbing children when that one was made into a movie. (I don't remember who took me. So traumatic.) Not Lean on Pete, thank goodness. You might have guessed by now that this book was assigned reading, and you'd be right. Lean on Pete was on the reading list for a graduate class on the fairy tale affect that I took this last semester, a class that focused less on the 'obvious' fairy tale to-dos (princesses and goblins and suchlike) and more on the ways fairy tales affect the people who read and watch and listen to them--the reasons why fairy tales have endured when other forms of storytelling haven't. Lean on Pete contains within its pages many of those reasons, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it too endures.There is nothing excessive about Vlautin's turn of phrase, nothing wasted. I suppose this is why people call it "spare" and "clean as bone." It is what I call good storytelling. The momentum is carried along by unvarnished dialogue and a kind of unemotional reportage of events as they unfold. Perhaps it's not as lyrical as some other books, and there will be folks for whom the style doesn't suit, but it's a comfortable kind of voice for me to inhabit, like putting on a worn flannel shirt fresh out of the dryer. And it reads exactly the way Willy Vlautin presents himself in real life; after he dropped in to observe our class and answer some of our questions, we all agreed that we simply enjoyed his presence, and enjoyed that same presence made manifest in Lean on Pete. His is a world in which really shitty things can happen, but exist in constant tension with unassuming acts of humanity. Inside the front cover, I tucked a postcard advertising a free baby saguaro cactus for visitors to a local farm. I thought this worth mentioning.

  • Andrew
    2018-12-29 22:50

    The writing style is incredibly simple, probably the most simple of any book I've read since childhood. It perfectly captures the realistic voice of the narrator, a sporadically-educated 15-year-old boy called Charley. Yet despite or perhaps because of the simplicity, it drew me into the story and was even beautiful in places.As well as the simplicity, Vlautin manages to convey the idea of a teenage narrator perfectly through Charley's obsessions - unimportant things are told in great detail (more or less every meal is catalogued), while important things are glossed over or only half-understood. There's no emotional self-reflection because Charley doesn't have the capacity for it. He mentions his mother, who left when he was young, only occasionally and through his father's views, not his own. When his father dies, there's hardly anything on Charley's reaction - it's not something he can express, so he tells us about the practicalities of surviving and trying to find his aunt in Wyoming instead.Although he cannot reflect on his own life and emotions, Charley finds he can talk, a little bit at least, to the horse he's looking after, called Lean on Pete. Even then, there is no gushing - Vlautin just gives us glimpses of Charley's state of mind through little things he says to the horse as he's petting him, or through dreams or nightmares, before returning to the cataloguing of cheeseburgers.The second half of the book contains more action, as Charley runs away from Portland and goes on the road to look for his aunt. The characters he meets are a mix of kind and violent, and you never know in a particular situation which he will find. The ending was a little bit flat for me, I think mostly because it was the only possible ending at that point, and so it lacked the power of surprise. But that was only a minor criticism - mostly I enjoyed this book, and was interested to learn how a world can be realistically evoked with hardly any physical description, and a story told engagingly with such simple, basic language.

  • Lynnski
    2019-01-17 21:39

    3.5 stars.I came across this book because an author I enjoy reading and follow on Goodreads had read it for his book club and really enjoyed it. Prior to that, I had never heard of it before. That is how I find out about a lot of great books though – reviews by others on Goodreads. Anyone can find out about books on the best seller list but reviews and recommendations by others introduce me to many more wonderful books, new and old.This novel is about a 15 year old who is pretty much on his own – he doesn’t know his mother and his father is never around. Throw in the fact that his father moves him around fairly often and therefore doesn’t have friends to lean on, he is truly raising himself. He finds friendship at a local race track in an aging horse named Lean on Pete. After a tragic event leaves him completely alone, he starts a journey to find the only other relative he knows – his aunt that he hopes still lives in Wyoming because that is where he is heading. At times the journey seems a little repetitive in what he encounters, but overall a very good story.Although this is a coming of age story and some consider it YA, I don’t think some of the content is suited for tweens or younger teens. I consider this more for the older YA crowd.

  • Peggy
    2019-01-21 22:35

    This was a well written book. I enjoyed the story a lot. It is about Charley Thompson, a 15 year old who has raised himself. His dad is not too dependable, leaving Charley alone for periods of time and moving him around frequently. When Charley's dad is fatally injured, Charley gets a job at the Portland, Oregon quarter horse race track. An owner/trainer named Del allows him to live in the tack room and gives him a job taking care of his horses. Charley is particularly fond of a horse named Lean on Pete. Pete is a washed up racer and Charley becomes afraid that Del will send him to the slaughter house or sell him.One night, Charley steals Pete and Del's old truck and trailer and sets out for Wyoming where Charley's aunt, his only living relative is supposed to live. After the truck breaks down, Charley and Pete set out walking across the desert toward his aunt's house. An accident occurs and Pete is hit by an old lady's car. This breaks Charley's heart, but makes him more determined to find his aunt. After a bunch of mishaps, Charley is able to find his aunt and she takes him in and gives him the first real home he has ever

  • Robin
    2018-12-25 20:46

    Charley is 15 when his no-good father uproots him from Spokane to Portland and settles into a house in Delta Park near Portland Meadows racetrack. Charley simply wants to be a normal teen and attend high school and play football but finds he has to survive when left alone for days without money or food. One day he stops by Portland Meadows stables and ends up working for Del, an abusive horse manager and owner of the broken down racehorse named Lean on Pete. After disaster strikes, Charley runs away with Pete, running into more challenges as he tries to make his way to Wyoming where he hopes to find barely remembered aunt.The characters are not your most attractive or loveable but you will find yourself rooting for these people who are simply doing the best they can under the circumstances, and I so badly wanted Charley to get the life he wanted and deserved. Like the other Vlautin books (Northline and Motel Life) the writing is gritty, spare, and sometimes lacks emotion, and the settings are bleak, but it all combines to pack a wallop. I can see this made into an indie movie and featured at Sundance.

  • Rebecca
    2019-01-19 21:32

    OK, I've been saying this for a while now, but WHAT IS UP WITH THE MASS AMOUNT OF NOVELS ABOUT CHILD SAFETY. I really cannot handle them. Who can read plots that are based on progressive imperilment of children?? It's horrible.I thought Lean on Pete would be triumphant, would show me the inside of a 15-year old mind, would teach me something new. Instead it is the story of how many cans of spaghetti-os he steals in order to survive. His strategy for defense when he goes to a guy's trailer to beat him with a tire iron. I thought: OK, he's sleeping in the park. Maybe we'll read about some little trick he's figured out that he's proud of, like how to stash his blanket so another park-sleeper won't find it. Maybe, he'll think of his dad and get sad, and remember a better time with him. But no. Instead, I feared to turn the page and see what new awful thing the kid would be subjected to.I do not see the supposed comparison to John Steinbeck. Steinbeck has clean prose, sure, but his writing is laced with enormous metaphorical power.Since I read this book, I give people on the street money. I guess that's the upshot.

  • Kevin
    2018-12-25 23:36

    STILL GOOD SECOND TIME AROUNDI had this book on my re-reads shelf as I remembered enjoying it first time I read it. It was still as good second time around, perhaps better because this time I did not rush, every word was savored. In a nutshell the story focuses on a teenage boy (Charley) who having become fatherless and homeless runs away with a race horse (Lean On Pete) he has been caring for at a local livery. It becomes apparent to Charley that as Lean On Pete is approaching the end of his running career there may be a possibility that he could be killed for horsemeat. In view of this Charley escapes with Pete hoping to find his aunt. So far life has not been kind to Charley, having lost his father and mother (who left him when he was a young child). Life on the road is very difficult, sometimes (mostly) resorting to shop-lifting in order to eat. A satisfying read that wants me to go back and re-read other books by this author. It is also good to hear that a film is being made on this book, perhaps it will introduce this fantastic author to a wider audience.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-01-05 21:27

    What a beautifully written, melancholy story. Fifteen-year-old Charley is the main character who kinda has no luck. His Dad means well but is living a hard ass life himself and they struggle by traveling to small-time towns in the Pacific Northwest. We all end up in Oregon and that's when tragic becomes the tone of the day. Charley is young and eating everything in sight. He's pretty industrious for a kid, gets himself a job within the circle of the horse racing. But we're talking bottom of the barrel horse racing. If you're an animal lover there will be moments of pain to come while reading some of these passages.After Charley becomes attached to one horse and sees the writing on the wall of it being put down he lits out to get to his Aunt's house... in Wyoming. There were hard times before but by the time this happens, about two-thirds into the book, things are turning out so poorly that there will be the kinds events that cause hauntings later in life.All of this paints a picture of gloom but the ending is so satisfying that redemption is within grasp.

  • Klynn
    2019-01-03 23:36

    This is a poignant, beautiful novel, but also an amazingly hard read. The writing is spare, raw and truthful. Vlautin's goal is not to make his readers cry. There is nothing contrived in this story. The stark truths that we experience with Charlie are much more difficult to endure. This book drained me. I felt so bad for Charlie. I wanted to help him…to give him a chance…to feed him…to let him sleep in a bed. This was an excellent reflection of a reality we struggle to see. That we have a system in place, that scares the people who need it most, is tragic. This is a stunning insightful novel that will haunt you, and make you think hard about our society and how we try to help those in need.