The Free, Willy Vlautin’s fourth novel, begins with a failed suicide attempt. Leroy Kervin, an Iraq veteran whose mind was ‘caved in by war’ seven years ago, suddenly regains mental clarity and opts for a permanent way out. He is discovered by Freddie, the night watchman at his care home, and subsequently looked after in hospital by a nurse called Pauline.
The novel follows these three characters in their separate lonelinesses around the state of Washington. Freddie works two jobs, between which he has a couple of hours to sleep and call his estranged daughters, who can think of little to say to him. In order to keep his house and