The Hearts of Men

Nickolas Butler

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13 July 2017
717 pages

Camp Chippewa, 1962. Thirteen-year-old Nelson, loner and over-achiever, is nicknamed the Bugler as he proudly sounds the reveille each morning. This is the summer that everything changes, marking the beginning of Nelson's uncertain friendship with a popular boy named Jonathan, and the discovery of his father's betrayal, which tears his family apart.

As time moves on, Nelson, irrevocably scarred from the Vietnam War, becomes Scoutmaster of Camp Chippewa, while Jonathan marries, divorces, and transforms his father's business. When something unthinkable happens during a visit from Jonathan's grandson and daughter-in-law, the aftermath tests the depths – and the limits – of Nelson's selflessness and bravery.

Nickolas Butler's The Hearts of Men is a powerful, wise and deeply affecting novel about the slippery definitions of right and wrong, family and fidelity, and the redemptive power of friendship.

Newly minted Midwestern laureate Nickolas Butler delivers on the big-hearted promise of his bestseller Shotgun Lovesongs with The Hearts of Men . . . this novel’s examination of a fracturing relationship between a flailing father and overarchieving young son is superbly judged and Butler’s prose remains a joy to read, even when his material is tough


The Hearts of Men is a wry, tender-hearted novel about men: their families and friendships, their vulnerabilities and foibles, their secrets and lies. Part coming-of-age narrative, part meditation on masculinity, part war story, this novel had me spellbound all the way to its riveting conclusion’

Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and Sweet Water

The Hearts of Men is a winning second novel, by turns wistful and wise, sad and funny, eminently readable, and always atmospheric. Without a doubt, Nickolas Butler is a young writer to watch

Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here and The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving