I heard Willy Vlautin speak at Adelaide Writers Week 2015. A likeable, engaging, laid back man he is, as you’d expect from an alt-country singer/songwriter. He spoke passionately about the fate of brain damaged ex-servicemen in the U.S.A., mostly struggling to survive under the huge burdens of medical expenses and depression.
“The Free” is about one such ex-serviceman, but also about other working poor and marginalised people struggling to keep their heads above water in neo-con America.
It does paint a gripping picture of their lives. But I struggled at times to follow the narrative, which switches between reality and anaesthetic induced dreams. It is in the dreams that the concept of “The Free” is introduced – apparently a band of tea-party type vigilantes (I think). It didn’t quite work for me and left me dissatisfied. But an author worth following.