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I really hope that you have Nickolas Butler on your must-read list. You almost certainly do if you have read one of his previous works, such as SHOTGUN LOVESONGS or LITTLE FAITH. If you have not, then GODSPEED is the perfect place to start and be entranced.

Butler is first and foremost a wonderful storyteller. He has an innate sense of what information is important to a story and, more significantly, what is not. With regard to the former, he is able to explain the complex in a clear and simple fashion without dumbing down the subject matter. Given that a great deal of GODSPEED concerns the building of a home from (almost) the ground up and the minutiae involving such a project, it is crucial that Butler gets it right and does so in a fashion that does not confuse or bore the reader. He hits the mark on both counts.

"It’s hard to walk away from GODSPEED without being grateful for the life one has, and that in itself makes it more than worth reading."

A book of this nature must focus primarily on the human element, and Butler does so with laser-like intensity. Cole, Bart and Teddy are the three principals of True Triangle Construction in Jackson, Wyoming. They began the company with the dream of being successful and wealthy, but are finding the way to those goals slow and difficult. Rather than building acres of homes, they mostly do side jobs, like building garages and drywalling. Each man is gifted and hobbled in his own way, though their friendship is such that they manage to shore each other up. Bart is struggling with substance abuse but is a hard worker. Cole is experiencing difficulties with relationships but has the gift of gab for closing deals. Teddy is not the sharpest saw in the toolbox but has a capacity for honesty and craftsmanship that carries the team through.

They seem to catch their lucky break when True Triangle is approached by Gretchen Connors, an enigmatic San Francisco attorney. She ultimately retains the company to finish construction on a house that hardly has been started in the mountains outside of Jackson. The plans are the grandest that the partners have ever seen, and the driveway is long and steep, two factors that will make access and material delivery next to impossible. The major difficulty, though, is that the homeowner is demanding a completion date of Christmas Day, which is just four months away. It is only the promise of a major payday and a bonus that prompts the men --- with varying degrees of excitement and reluctance --- to take on the project. Hilarity does not ensue.

Of course there are problems that the three friends overcome, sometimes together and other times separately. But a major event occurs that throws the completion of the entire project into doubt as the attention of the company is suddenly and dramatically diverted elsewhere. Meanwhile, Butler in fits and starts ever so gradually reveals why the deadline is so important to Gretchen, a reason that flips our assumptions upside down.

The conclusion contains a little bit of everything, from triumph and tragedy to pathos and redemption. As a result, it is as real as anything you are likely to read this year. Butler lays the story out and lets us draw our own conclusions. It will take a while --- maybe longer --- but that’s okay. It’s hard to walk away from GODSPEED without being grateful for the life one has, and that in itself makes it more than worth reading.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 7, 2021

by Nickolas Butler