Meet Horace Hopper, a twenty-one-year-old farm hand in Tonopah, Nevada, who works for Mr Reece and his wife, the nearest thing he's had to family in years.
But Horace, half-white half-Paiute Indian, dreams of bigger things. Leaving behind the farm and its fragile stability, he heads South to re-invent himself as the Mexican boxer Hector Hidalgo. Slowly, painfully, the possibility emerges that his dreams might not just be the delusions of a lost soul. but at what cost, and what of those he's left behind?
Exploring the fringes of contemporary America, Don't Skip Out on Me is an extraordinary work of compassion - a novel about the need for human connection and understanding - and essential reading, now more than ever.
In this powerful novel, Vlautin (The Free) writes about characters whose big dreams and plans are often stunted by fate and circumstance, but who've managed to find a way to push through, bruised but with hard-won wisdom. Young Horace Hopper is half-Irish, half-Paiute Indian, and he has spent most of his life as a ranch hand. While herding sheep in the stark, isolated mountains near Tonopah, Nev., Hopper listens to heavy metal music and struggles with the shame of being abandoned by his parents. Hopper's guardian, the aging rancher Eldon Reese, suffers crippling back pain and faces an uncertain future as his way of life becomes less and less tenable. Reese and his wife love Hopper dearly and consider him a son, but the young man soon leaves for Tucson to pursue his dream of becoming a professional boxer. Hopper, now calling himself "Hector Hidalgo," finds a washed-up trainer and manages to get some fights throughout the Southwest and Mexico. A series of injuries, however, soon threaten to derail his career before it's really off the ground. In this excellent novel, Vlautin's reverence for the land recalls writers such as Jim Harrison and John Steinbeck.