A boy coming of age in a part of the country that’s being left behind is at the heart of this dazzling novel—the first by an award-winning author of short stories that evoke the American West.
LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE • “August reads like early Hemingway, retooled for the present.”—William Finnegan, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Barbarian Days
Callan Wink has been compared to masters like Jim Harrison and Thomas McGuane. His short stories have been published in The New Yorker and have won numerous accolades. Now his enormous talents are showcased in a debut novel that follows a boy growing up in the middle of the country through those difficult years between childhood and adulthood.
August is an average twelve-year-old. He likes dogs and fishing and doesn’t mind early-morning chores on his family’s Michigan dairy farm. But following his parents’ messy divorce, his mother decides that she and August need to start over in a new town. There, he tries to be an average teen—playing football and doing homework—but when his role in a shocking act of violence throws him off course once more, he flees to a ranch in rural Montana, where he learns that even the smallest communities have dark secrets.
Covering August's adolescence, from age twelve to nineteen, this gorgeously written novel bears witness to the joys and traumas that irrevocably shape us all. Filled with unforgettable characters and stunning natural landscapes, this book is a moving and provocative look at growing up in the American heartland.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Violence lurks on the margins of this quietly powerful coming-of-age story, which explores masculinity in modern-day rural America. We meet August at age 12 and follow him as he moves from his father’s Michigan dairy farm to the wide open spaces of a Montana ranch. Reticent and withdrawn, August doesn’t say much as he moves through his world, preferring to observe those around him. But as he nears 19, we watch this young cowboy evolve from a mere onlooker to an active participant. Callan Wink writes in a style that’s as beautifully sparse as the open prairie—much like August himself, he doesn’t need many words to convey a wealth of meaning about what it means to become a man. The languid pacing of Wink’s novel reminded us a lot of Richard Linklater’s deeply moving movie Boyhood—it’s a powerful story told in small moments.
Wink's accomplished debut novel (after the collection Dog Run Moon) explores the nuances of present-day agricultural life. August grows up on the family dairy farm in Michigan with his divorced parents, shuttling between the "old house" where his mother, Bonnie, lives, and the "new house" built by his father, Dar, with Bonnie's inheritance. After Dar shacks up with a woman just out of high school, Bonnie moves with August to Bozeman, Mont., where August attends high school and has his heart broken after sleeping with an older woman. He spends summers working for his father in Michigan, and after graduating, August defers college ("something people do to put off actually doing something") for a position on a Montana cattle ranch. Wink takes an assured, meandering approach to narrating August's life, as August creeps toward adulthood through a series of minor adventures, such as mending fences, drinking at the local watering hole, and learning how to dance. Wink brilliantly captures the stultifying effects of small-town life and the tension between free-spirited August and those stuck in the Montana "suckhole," concluding with a stunning, indelible image from August's rearview mirror. Like a current Jim Harrison, Wink makes irresistable drama out of an individual's search for identity in landscapes that are by turns romantic and limiting.