Determined to prove his worth, a half-Paiute, half-Irish ranch hand who was abandoned by his parents, tries to become a champion boxer in Mexico and Las Vegas only to realize that he cannot change his identity or outrun his destiny.
Vlautin’s realism lacks the granularity of, say, Raymond Carver, where even the most everyday objects or events are imbued with symbolic significance ... Horace’s goal may sound incredible but it doesn’t feel that way because Vlautin is writing about ordinary people in clean, spare language. He viscerally communicates the pain and damage to the body after a fight, although, for me, the fight scenes could be more visual. This matters less than it might because the book is about identity not boxing ... Don’t Skip Out on Me shines a light on the broken-down and the drifters; it is a bruising yet surprisingly tender study of the need for human connection, and the way that urban landscapes can be more isolating than any wilderness ... Horace’s search for identity and meaning amid the white noise of urban life feels like a curiously relevant tale for us all.
Have good-hearted ordinary people ever had to endure as much pain as they do in a Willy Vlautin novel? Perhaps only in real life ... That’s what Vlautin does to us; he strips away our defenses with close-to-the bone prose that leaves us utterly exposed to the tragedy of being alive—and every bit as thankful for those moments of aching humanity before the curtain falls.
On its surface, his writing seems all too simple -- he writes clean and uncomplicated sentences that create clear images. Sometimes he presents absolutely detailed images, even about some day-to-day things, like what his characters are having for dinner and what kind of music they are listening to ... Light writing, heavy questions. Vlautin concentrates on presenting the images as if in hope that they will present answers ... All these themes are something that Vlautin has already been exploring, both through his music and writing. With Don't Skip Out on Me, it seems that he has reached some kind of pinnacle of this exploration, since he has prepared a special Richmond Fontaine instrumental soundtrack that is also annotated in the book. As the story winds to its conclusion, one of the questions the readers have to resolve themselves is, who is skipping out on whom? Is it another person, or is it just one's self? Simple question. Hard to play out.