March 2018 Indie Next List
“Horace Hopper, the Irish-Paiute Indian protagonist in Don't Skip Out on Me, dreams of erasing the shame of childhood abandonment by reinventing himself as a professional boxer. His boss and surrogate father, an elderly sheep rancher, wrestles with the choices of his own history, and does his best to maintain a way of life that is rapidly disappearing. Vlautin intertwines the lives and fates of these two men in a work of astonishing beauty and heartbreak, and guides the reader to an ending that is as true and real as it gets. Willy Vlautin has been literature's best-kept secret for far too long. He may well be our own Steinbeck, but with a haunting steel-guitar sensibility all his own.”
— Patrick Millikin, The Poisoned Pen, Scottsdale, AZ
Horace Hopper has spent most of his life on a Nevada sheep ranch, but dreams of something bigger. Mr. and Mrs. Reese, the aging ranchers, took him in and treated him like a son, intending to leave the ranch in his hands. But Horace, ashamed not only of his half-Paiute, half-Irish heritage, but also of the fact his parents did not want him, feels as if he doesn't belong on the ranch, or anywhere. Knowing he needs to make a name for himself, he decides to leave the only loving home he's known to prove his worth as a championship boxer. Mr. Reese is holding on to a way of life that is no longer sustainable. He's a seventy-two-year-old rancher with a bad back. He's not sure how he'll keep things going without Horace but he knows the boy must find his own way. To become a champion Horace must change not just the way he eats, trains, and thinks, but who he is. Reinventing himself as Hector Hildago, a scrappy Mexican boxer, he heads to Tucson and begins training and entering fights. His journey brings him to boxing rings across the Southwest and Mexico and finally, to the streets of Las Vegas, where Horace learns he can't change who he is or outrun his destiny. A beautiful, wrenching portrait of a downtrodden man, Don't Skip Out on Me narrates the struggle to find one's place in a vast and lonely world with profound tenderness, and will make you consider those around you--and yourself--differently.