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The Hearts of Men
by Nickolas Butler


Overview -

" A] tender, insightful book... Perfectly paced and leavened with humor, it's a wonderful read." -- People

An epic novel of intertwining friendships and families set in the Northwoods of Wisconsin at a beloved Boy Scout summer camp--from the bestselling author of Shotgun Lovesongs

Camp Chippewa, 1962.  Read more...


 
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More About The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler
 
 
 
Overview

" A] tender, insightful book... Perfectly paced and leavened with humor, it's a wonderful read." -- People

An epic novel of intertwining friendships and families set in the Northwoods of Wisconsin at a beloved Boy Scout summer camp--from the bestselling author of Shotgun Lovesongs

Camp Chippewa, 1962. Nelson Doughty, age thirteen, social outcast and overachiever, is the Bugler, sounding the reveille proudly each morning. Yet this particular summer marks the beginning of an uncertain and tenuous friendship with a popular boy named Jonathan.

Over the years, Nelson, irrevocably scarred from the Vietnam War, becomes Scoutmaster of Camp Chippewa, while Jonathan marries, divorces, and turns his father's business into a highly profitable company. And when something unthinkable happens at a camp get-together with Nelson as Scoutmaster and Jonathan's teenage grandson and daughter-in-law as campers, the aftermath demonstrates the depths--and the limits--of Nelson's selflessness and bravery.

The Hearts of Men is a sweeping, panoramic novel about the slippery definitions of good and evil, family and fidelity, the challenges and rewards of lifelong friendships, the bounds of morality--and redemption.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780062469687
  • ISBN-10: 0062469681
  • Publisher: Ecco Press
  • Publish Date: March 2017
  • Page Count: 400


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-11-21
  • Reviewer: Staff

Butler (Beneath the Bonfire) returns to rural Wisconsin in this big-hearted epic full of sturdy characters that wear their heartsand prideon their sleeves. Told in four parts spanning from 1962 to 2022 and set against the woodsy backdrop of a Boy Scout summer camp, Camp Chippewa, the narrative follows three generations struggling to find their place in a world bent on dealing them a bad hand. In the first section, 13-year-old social outcast Nelson finds little comfort as the camps bullied bugler while dealing with conflicted feelings about his abusive father. A tentative friendship formed with cocky older Jonathan saves Nelsons hide more than once while also demonstrating the limits of just how much Jonathan can give. Part two narrows in on 49-year-old Jonathans 16-year-old son, Trevor, falling in love with Rachel, as well as his front-row seat to Jonathans marriage-busting affair on the way to Camp Chippewa. The slow-burn heartbreak continues in the two final sections. Once-widowed and twice-divorced Rachel makes an ill-fated decision to accompany her and Trevors son, Thomas, on his last summer as a Boy Scout. In a fiery conclusion, Nelson and Jonathan reunite after more than 20 yearswealthy and reclusive Jonathan is now a grandfather, and Nelson is about to retire as Camp Chippewa Scoutmaster. Butler demonstrates enormous command over the material and sympathy for his flawed characters. This beautiful novel might be his best yet. Agent: Rob McQuilken, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (Mar.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Boys to men

What does it really mean to be a good man? That’s the challenging question posed by Nickolas Butler (Shotgun Lovesongs) in The Hearts of Men, an earnest exploration of the best and worst of male behavior, set against the backdrop of that quintessential laboratory for shaping it: the Boy Scouts.

Beginning in 1962 and spanning 60 years, most of the action of Butler’s novel takes place at Camp Chippewa, a Boy Scout summer camp in Wisconsin’s north woods. In two generations, a world that emphasizes the value of knot-tying and compass reading gives way to the age of iPads and social media. Wilbur Whiteside is the autocratic Scoutmaster who leads the camp for decades until he’s succeeded by former camper Nelson Doughty, who is aware of the profound contrast between the generous and instructive Wilbur and his own abusive father.

When it comes to the Boy Scouts, Butler isn’t interested in exploring the controversy surrounding an organization one character dismisses as “a dogged fraternity of paramilitary Young Republicans desperately clinging to some nineteenth-century notion of goodness in a modern world,” but he does imply there’s an enduring benefit to its ethos. Several of the characters, including Wilbur and Nelson, fight in wars that range from World War I to Afghanistan, and whether their conduct is cowardly or heroic, Butler suggests that the experience profoundly shapes the way they live the rest of their lives. He’s perceptive enough to recognize that only a tiny minority of men will see combat, but that most will be tested in other ways that reveal character.

Novelist Jonathan Evison described Shotgun Lovesongs as a “good old-fashioned novel,” and that’s an equally fitting description of The Hearts of Men. Butler doesn’t make it hard to tell the admirable men from the ones who badly misbehave, but his role models aren’t lacking complexity or flaws. Writing without irony, in a style that brings to mind writers like Andre Dubus III and Tom Perrotta, Butler, who grew up and still lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, displays an intuitive feel for the values of his characters. He’s portrayed them with compassion in this kindhearted, affecting novel.

 

This article was originally published in the March 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews