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Told from the perspective of fifteen-year-old Charley Thompson, Lean on Pete (2010) is the story of a boy left to fend for himself by his wayward single father. Charley wanders to Portland Meadows racetrack one day and finds work with a surly, washed up horse trainer. He befriends an aging quarter horse named Lean on Pete, and before long, Charley and Pete find themselves alone in an unforgiving landscape scattered with a vivid cast of characters, desperate situations, and glimmers of hope.

Lean on Pete received the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction and Literary Arts/The Oregonian Peoples’ Choice Award, was placed at #3 on The Independent’s “50 Best Winter Reads“, was one of Roddy Doyle’s four favorite books of the year, made Uncut’s Top Ten Books of 2010 and the Oregonian‘s and Chicago Sun Times‘ Best Books of 2010, and was Hot Press #1 Book of the Year.

Lean on Pete was adapted to the big screen in 2018, written and directed by Andrew Haigh (Weekend, 45 Years), and stars Steve Buscemi, Chloe Sevigny, Charlie Plummer and Travis Fimmel.

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“As one boy’s journey, Lean on Pete is as real as blood: as a novel it is remarkable. Willy Vlautin, romantic and realist, has written something special that will make you shudder, weep, rage and wonder at how such things happen and do, and how some individuals such as Charley can suffer them, absorb the grief, and somehow survive. How good is contemporary US fiction? This good: catch your breath good.”
Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

Lean On Pete is an archetypal American novel, Huck Finn for the crystal-meth generation. If there’s the occasional touch of sentimentality, it’s hard-earned and welcome. This is a sad, often brutal, but oddly beautiful portrait of an America that’s forgotten only because we choose not to remember its continuing existence.”
The Independent