Lean on Pete

Lean on Pete

by Willy Vlautin


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Willy Vlautin’s award-winning novel Lean on Pete, a moving and compassionate story about a fifteen-year old-boy's unlikely connection to a failing racehorse as he struggles to find a place to call home—now a major motion picture from A24, the studio behind Moonlight and Lady Bird, starring Charlie Plummer, Chloë Sevigny, with Travis Fimmel and Steve Buscemi, and directed by Andrew Haigh (45 Years, Looking).

Lean on Pete riveted me. Reading it, I was heartbroken and moved; enthralled and convinced. This is serious American literature.”
—Cheryl Strayed, Oregonian

Fifteen-year-old Charley Thompson wants a home, food on the table, and a high school he can attend for more than part of a year. But as the son of a single father working in warehouses across the Pacific Northwest, Charley's been pretty much on his own. When tragic events leave him homeless weeks after their move to Portland, Oregon, Charley seeks refuge in the tack room of a run-down horse track. Charley's only comforts are his friendship with a failing racehorse named Lean on Pete and a photograph of his only known relative. In an increasingly desperate circumstance, Charley will head east, hoping to find his aunt who had once lived a thousand miles away in Wyoming—but the journey to find her will be a perilous one.

In Lean on Pete, Willy Vlautin reveals the lives and choices of American youth like Charley Thompson who were failed by those meant to protect them and who were never allowed the chance to just be a kid.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061456534
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/13/2010
Series: P.S. Series
Pages: 277
Sales rank: 455,196
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Willy Vlautin is the author of The Free, Lean on Pete, Northline, The Motel Life, and Don't Skip Out on Me. He is the singer and songwriter of the band Richmond Fontaine and a member of the band The Delines. He lives outside Portland, Oregon.

What People are Saying About This

Barry Gifford

“Lean on Pete reminds me of the best parts of Gus Van Sant’s beautiful film My Own Private Idaho. Willy’s voice is pure and his stories universal. He never loses hope or heart and I believe every word he’s written.”

Sarah Hall

“Willy Vlautin’s novels are clean as a bone, companionable, and profound. He is a master at paring loneliness and longing from his characters, issuing them through downturns, trials and transience without starving their humanity, and always sustaining them, and the reader, with ordinary hope.“

Mark Billingham

“The comparisons with Steinbeck and Carver are richly deserved, yet Vlautin is a truly original voice…powerful, heartbreaking stuff. Just three novels in and Vlautin is already one of the best writers in America.”

Hannah Tinti

“Reading Willy Vlautin is like jumping into a clear, cold lake in the middle of summer. His prose is beautifully spare and clean, but underneath the surface lies an incredible depth, with all kinds of hidden stories and emotions resting in the shadows.”

Customer Reviews

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Lean on Pete 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was written in such raw authentic language that it felt more like Willy was talking to me through the page. He loves to take passive characters and make us root for them. Reading his books is like walking through a mirror and watching from the other side. I love everything he has written so far and can't wait for more.
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
At first, I didn't know what to think of Lean On Pete by Willy Vlautin. I was reading through the eyes of fifteen-year-old Charley Thompson and it felt like a fifteen year-old was writing it. But when the story started rolling and we get to see what Charlie is going through as he become lost in the world he is living with his father, then alone and trying to find his aunt. All he wants is to be loved and cared for. He wants a family and a chance to play football. He struggles helplessly as he travels through various states to locate his aunt, hungry and alone. This story, although depressing, is heart wrenching and enjoyable.
nite-owlCP More than 1 year ago
All Charley, age 15, wanted was a home, family, food on the table and a chance to play football. All Charley got was an empty house most of the time, a dad who drank and didn't come home even when he could, no food which lead Charley to meet Del. Now Del was a cheat, a liar, a drinker, and a cheater, Del also had a hourse named Pete. Charley met Pet when he went to work with Del, he needed money to eat. Then his dad was in a bad accident, well not exactly an accident, and had to ber hospitalized. Now Charley was really alone. He had an aunt whom he loved and he though she loved him. But that was when he was 11 and his dad said she didn't love him any more. He didn't even know where she lived. You will be amazed the see how resourceful Charley becomes and he grows into a young man with a lot of lessons to learn. You won't be sorry you bought this book. Took me a little to get into it, but then I couldn't put it down. I had to get use to writing like Charley was telling me his story. After I got use to his writing style, this is a sad but heart warming story. The love of a horse named Pete and a young man named Charley.
harstan More than 1 year ago
When his dad decides to start over for the zillionth time, fifteen year old Charley Thompson relocates with him from Spokane, Washington. However, shortly after moving to Portland, Oregon, Charley's irresponsible father deserts him to move in with a married woman. Soon afterward the woman's husband kills Charley's dad. Charley obtains a job working for Del Montgomery at Delta Park racetrack. However, watching what Del does to the thoroughbreds upsets Charley more than his dad's death especially when he learns his employer plans to sell his only friend Pete to people who will kill the horse. Deciding nothing is there to keep him in Portland, Charley steals Pete to keep him safe. Together they flee the Pacific Northwest. Although Charley seems to have incredible luck on his trek with people helping him and Pete providing money, food and shelter without asking questions of why a young teen was .on his own; when no one is there shelter still is easily available. Putting aside the realism probability (Vegas would take Charley and Pete off the board), fans will enjoy his plight and flight as readers will cheer the lad on while knowing all he wants is to be part of a loving family. Harriet Klausner
dnkemontoh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Do children like Charley Thompson exist today? You better believe they do. It breaks my heart. Managing to live, cope with the challenges of life -- loss of parents, not enough food, little or no supervision/parenting, survival... but with dreams. A definite read. (Of course, the fact that it is set primarily in Oregon doesn't hurt either.)
alexann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Charley and his single Dad had lived in Portland for only a couple of weeks when 15-year-old Charley suddenly finds himself on his own (as if his life with an absent, uncaring father wasn't bed enough!) He finds work at a nearby racetrack where he cares for an old broken-down horse named Lean on Pete. Charley's boss and Pete's owner is Del, a mean old alcoholic. Del pays him when he feels like it, and yells at him often, but Charley's attachment to Pete makes it worth sticking it out. Until he hears Del say that it's time to send Pete to the glue factory. That's the day Charley decides it's time to light out for the country.Throughout Charley's story one bad thing after another happens to him---and yet, he is always rescued by a kind stranger, or an unusual circumstance. This just didn't ring true--it happened so many times that it began to feel like a "Fortunately--Unfortunately" story. Vlautin's writing is fine--very direct simple language that just tells the story. A quick, pleasant read, but not up there with the best of them.
lorraineh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a challenging book topic wise.The story is about a 15 yr old boy who has no path in his life and how he tries to make it through in a lonely and cold world.Its almost a road trip story which begins with the death of the boys father and how he struggles to survive whilst looking for his aunt.If you are looking for a heart wrenching book of the terrible things that can happen to children when they dont have family then this is the read for you. It shows the nature of people, some good, some cruel.For me it was too sad a storyline even with the 'happy' ending.It took me a while to recognise that the language and phrasing used reflects that of the boy in a narrative style. You see the world through his confused eyes - this is cleverly done.Read it if you like a traumatic read, but not for those looking for a lifting tale or a feelgood story. I do at times enjoy a tragic tale but this was to sad for me and my score reflects this. Many thanks to the early reviewers for providing this book to me.
AndrewBlackman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The writing style is incredibly simple, probably the most simple of any book I've read since childhood. It perfectly captures the realistic voice of the narrator, a sporadically-educated 15-year-old boy called Charley. Yet despite or perhaps because of the simplicity, it drew me into the story and was even beautiful in places.As well as the simplicity, Vlautin manages to convey the idea of a teenage narrator perfectly through Charley's obsessions - unimportant things are told in great detail (more or less every meal is catalogued), while important things are glossed over or only half-understood. There's no emotional self-reflection because Charley doesn't have the capacity for it. He mentions his mother, who left when he was young, only occasionally and through his father's views, not his own. When his father dies, there's hardly anything on Charley's reaction - it's not something he can express, so he tells us about the practicalities of surviving and trying to find his aunt in Wyoming instead.Although he cannot reflect on his own life and emotions, Charley finds he can talk, a little bit at least, to the horse he's looking after, called Lean on Pete. Even then, there is no gushing - Vlautin just gives us glimpses of Charley's state of mind through little things he says to the horse as he's petting him, or through dreams or nightmares, before returning to the cataloguing of cheeseburgers.The second half of the book contains more action, as Charley runs away from Portland and goes on the road to look for his aunt. The characters he meets are a mix of kind and violent, and you never know in a particular situation which he will find. The ending was a little bit flat for me, I think mostly because it was the only possible ending at that point, and so it lacked the power of surprise. But that was only a minor criticism - mostly I enjoyed this book, and was interested to learn how a world can be realistically evoked with hardly any physical description, and a story told engagingly with such simple, basic language.
sanddancer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The narrator of this simple, but involving story is Charlie, a teenage boy whose home life is chaotic to say the least. He has never known his mother and his father keeps moving him from town to town whilehe looks for work. During the summer, they move to Portland, where they don't know anyone and while Charlie waits for school to start up again, he finds work for race horse owner. Here, he meets a horse by the name of Lean on Pete, to whom he becomes particularly attached. A series of events led to Charlie setting off on his own version of a road trip, where he scambles for survival and meets a colourful collection of people. Despite the title being the name of the horse in the book, the relationship between boy and horse isn't quite as dominant as you might expect - it is more a tale about poverty. Charlie is essentially a likeable narrator, a good kid who finds himself in awful circumstances and I found myself really wanting him to be ok. The style is simple and struck me as an authentic voice for a teenager.
csrsvivr More than 1 year ago
This book came to my attention by word of mouth. I actually live in the area this book is based on and it was very cool to see this put to print. The book carries a similar darkness that John Steinbeck books do. Darkness or sadness, lost, desperate. Thank God for a happy ending. I’m glad I read this!
ShawnSorensen43 More than 1 year ago
Illuminates a quiet, restless, hopeless and a mostly morally intact side of American life. I pulled more for Charlie, the main character, the more dire his circumstances and the more desperate and short-sighted his decisions. Almost everyone he meets has an agenda, so this homeless teenager just keeps traveling. I don't know what life, good or bad, where I wouldn't see myself a lot in this character. I was so sad for Charlie even though so many have it differently, many worse. It opens up that chasm, that faint hope to bounce back up from rock bottom. This as the pages keep turning more quickly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was so impressed by this tale that I went on to buy all his others. It's sparse and packed with story, but the character of the protagonist is super strong and you'll be rooting for him from the off, I promise. I has the simple, young adult feel of some of SE Hinton in some ways, but there are moments that are graphic which make this a very adult read.
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LPieroni More than 1 year ago
Vlautin's newest novel, Lean on Pete, is a beautifully heartwrenching novel about a 15-year-old boy who has always had to fend for himself, but is left utterly alone when his deadbeat dad dies. Broke and friendless, Charley Thompson gets a job with a shady character by the name of Del helping him take care of his race horses. It is with one of these horses, Lean on Pete, that Charley builds a devoted friendship. Charley soon realizes that Del plans to sell Pete to men who will kill him, so he steals the horse and leaves Portland, OR and heads towards Wyoming, where he believes his aunt still lives. The story is a travel narrative and also a portrait of the degradation of a human being. Everything that could go wrong does for poor Charley, and we as readers are forced to endure every hardship and act of kindness along with him. For more of this review, and others, go to: laurareviewsbooks.blogspot.com