The Hearts of Men
By Nickolas Butler
If you read Shotgun Lovesongs, you know that two of Butler's strengths are his rich Wisconsin settings and his ability to probe the depths of men's friendships. His new novel, an epic about three generations at a Boy Scout camp in the North Woods, takes it to the next level. It starts with the bullied Nelson, who finds purpose in the Scouts and winds up running the camp, and Jonathan, the older boy who becomes both his manipulator and protector. Their complicated friendship unfolds through Jonathan's son Trevor and grandson Thomas, who both wind up spending summers at Chippewa, but what's a Scout to do when the Scout Oath doesn't always hold up in reality? Is there a place for honor when nobody wants to get a stamp-collecting or radio merit badge? In Butler's hands, the answers unfold, all in the context of a heck of a good story.Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company
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.
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