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Book review: 'The Free' showcases heroic deeds of normal people

By Elizabeth Reid

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Feb. 8 2014 3:00 p.m. MST

"THE FREE," by Willy Vlautin, Harper Perenial, $14.99, 297 pages (f)

Many books that deal with difficult situations can intimidate readers, scaring them away from even opening the covers. “The Free,” however, manages to find the balance between heartbreak and inspirational as it shares the lives of three people.

Wounded in the Iraq war, Leroy Kervin is a veteran who suffers mentally and physically. Before joining the military, he was living the perfect life, complete with good health and an adoring girlfriend. But a horrendous accident left him a severely damaged man. One day he makes the decision to end his suffering for good.

Looking after Leroy is just one of the things Freddie McCall, the night watchman and handyman at the group home, does. Freddie is the type of man who is frequently overlooked, the one whose good nature is often abused. He works two jobs trying to make ends meet, and he misses his family. Although life continues getting harder, Freddie persists in trying to make things work.

One of Leroy’s nurses is Pauline Hawkins. She takes care of everyone else but has decided the best way to care for herself is to make it nearly impossible for anyone to enter her heart. When she comes in contact with a teenage runaway, she finds herself in a position she had promised to never again get into and has to make a decision on how to continue living her life.

Author Willy Vlautin has managed to make every character in his book, even the minor ones, impactful. Instead of giving readers an impossible hero, Vlautin has shown that the mistakes people make can be forgiven and normal individuals are the real heroes in everyday life.

“The Free” has a brief sex scene as well as several instances of profanity and illegal drugs. It also deals with sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, teens living on the streets and mental illness.

Vlautin lives near Portland, Ore. He has written several books and is a singer and songwriter.

If you go ...

What: Willy Vlautin book signing

When: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com

Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of the featured book from The King's English.

Elizabeth Reid has bachelor's degrees in economics and history. She has worked in retail, medical billing, catering, education and business fields. Her favorite occupation is that of wife and mother. She blogs at gelatoandchocolate.blogspot.com.

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