'"You know that easy thing he had? You know the way he was?"
"Yeah," Lynette said.
"He doesn't have that any more."
Happy New Year to you all and thanks for popping by.
I caught myself reflecting on 2021 and being glad to see the
back of it. There were some tough things to deal with, the death of my father
being the biggest of all. I began to attribute the worst of it all to the year
itself, then realised that among the struggles were moments of joy and big
success for those around me, which helped me to smile. On reflection, years
are just blocks of time and if you look at a big enough block there’s bound to
be more than one rough patch in there. Bad things happen to us all. Life, no
matter how smoothly things are going, is problematic- health, death, working or
not working, money, time pressures, stress, repairs, fitness, our own batches of flaws- it’s going to
be hard. All is sorrow, as they say, and the sooner we grasp that the sooner we
can embrace the whole package.
Which is why I love Willy Vlautin’s books so much. He deals
with the struggles head on, balances the problems with the pleasures of simple
things and constructs stories that are powerful, involving and engaging. He
takes the ordinary, holds up a mirror to it and lets us know that there’s no
I’d been saving The Night Always Comes (US) for a rainy day, or
rather a day when the storms had sufficiently calmed. I finally picked it up
during the Christmas holiday and finished it within twenty-four hours; given my
issues with concentration of late, that’s really quite something. As expected,
it grabbed my attention, had my emotions rising to the surface and absorbed my
thinking for the duration.
The novel follows Lynette, a young woman who is trying
desperately to put troubled times behind her and to build something for
herself, her mother and her brother. Her mother, however, has other ideas and finally
admits that Lynette’s vision isn’t going to suit.
Lynette’s world is turned upside down. She has to fight to
keep her past instabilities from taking over, while having to reach into the
extremes of that past to find the passion she needs to survive what lies ahead.
In a bid to collect all the money she needs for a mortgage,
she calls in markers from the men who have paid for her services and from
anyone she’s lent money to in the past. Some are ready to cough up, others are
determined not to help. After stealing a safe of one of her friends in order to
get what is rightfully hers, she is forced to connect with characters who are woven into her history and characters she has never met
before who occupy shady worlds where the need to survive comes before anything
It’s a beast of a book with a lot of power and passion. I
was entirely wrapped up in it when I had it in my hand and just as wrapped up
when I didn’t.
That said, it’s probably my least favourite of Vlautin's novels.
There were a few things that didn’t feel quite right. First off, a lot of the
conversations reach into Lynette’s history and always land on the
buttons that need to be pressed to give us back story or to up the empathy
levels. We spend a lot of time gazing backwards when the story has a natural
forward momentum of its own. Secondly, Lynette’s role as carer to her brother
didn’t appear to have solid foundation or genuine feel, contrasting significantly with
Pauline, the nurse in The Free. Finally Lynette also already has a substantial amount
of money to draw upon. To save so much, she’s had to endure torture and cope
with things that no human being should have to, but some of the sting of her
predicament is taken out because of her financial situation (most of the rest
of the cast have crap lives with no safety net of any description).
Overall, this is a winner. A reading journey that I’d
urge you to take. It’s a great novel and has certainly blown away many of the
cobwebs of my mind. If you’ve read Willy Vlautin before, I wonder where you
would rate it among his other books. If you haven’t, this is a great starting
point from which I’m pretty sure you’ll want to set off to explore more- believe me you’re in
Like Lynette herself, something of a flawed gem.