Book of the Week: The Hearts of Men – Nickolas Butler

Butler’s last book, Shotgun Lovesongs, made a huge splash in the Indie market. A heartfelt exploration of the inner lives and public fortunes of four Midwestern friends, it was a #1 Indie Next Pick and won a number of awards including France’s Prix Page/America, the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, and the Great Lakes Great Reads Award. Fans of that book will not be disappointed by this new novel which continues Butler’s exploration of small town Midwestern life and male relationships in particular. The Hearts of Men begins at a Wisconsin Boy Scout camp in 1962 and follows the life of Nelson Doughty and his popular friend Thomas from a traumatic hazing that forges their relationship and through the next sixty years. The Hearts of Men arrives with three starred advance reviews and is both a March Indie Next and LibraryReads pick. It has already been covered on NPR’s All Things Considered and Butler will be interviewed by NPR’s Lynn Neary at on sale. National reviews are already scheduled in the NYTBR, People and USA Today.

 “Butler returns to rural Wisconsin in this big-hearted epic full of sturdy characters that wear their hearts—and pride—on their sleeves. Told in four parts… [it] 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 camp’s bullied bugler while dealing with conflicted feelings about his abusive father. A tentative friendship formed with cocky older Jonathan saves Nelson’s hide more than once while also demonstrating the limits of just how much Jonathan can give…. In a fiery conclusion, Nelson and Jonathan reunite after more than 20 years….Butler demonstrates enormous command over the material and sympathy for his flawed characters. This beautiful novel might be his best yet.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Across three generations and as many wars, this earnest novel explores the ways boys become men and how even flawed men may stand as models for the young… A well-paced, affecting read.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “Butler’s latest delves into the meaning of loyalty and friendship, how some rise to life’s challenges while others fail… Fans of Butler’s award-winning Shotgun Lovesongs will welcome this impressive work with an outstanding ensemble cast. Top of the class for Butler on this one.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Butler achieves a rare triple play here of brilliant characterizations, a riveting story line, and superlatively measured prose, putting him in the front ranks of contemporary American writers of literary fiction.”
— Booklist  

“The Boy Scouts at Wisconsin’s summer Camp Chippewa practice their knot tying every morning at reveille. The knot that they don’t practice is the one that will bind four generations of Chippewa’s scouts to each other through wars and family upheaval. The cruelty of bully campers, the surprising loyalty of lightly made friends, the feckless absent fathers, the lonely heroism of soldiers and their mothers–the patterns repeat, each family generation sharing some of the blame, some of the glory….I was completely won over by Butler’s novel. The movie plays in my head. An original coming of age novel that deserves a place alongside of A Separate Peace.”
— Carla Bayha, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

“I’m a big Nickolas Butler fan. This is by far his darkest work. That said, this is a wonderfully crafted novel. I think Nicholas Butler is extremely good at writing in such a way that you can identify with all the characters in his books. This book, like Shotgun Lovesongs, alternates between several character’s point of view while following a delicate main thread. Loved it!”
— Tim Smith, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI

The Hearts of Men (9780062469687) by Nickolas Butler. $26.99 hardcover. 3/7/17 on sale.

One thought on “Book of the Week: The Hearts of Men – Nickolas Butler

  1. A really great book, I will think of it, because it was very satisfying to read it. I know I will be following Mr Butler and will read his previous books as well


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