Book Review: Godspeed by Nickolas Butler

Godspeed is the riveting new novel from Nickolas Butler, the bestselling and award-winning author of Shotgun Lovesongs. Set in rural Wyoming, Godspeed follows three troubled construction workers who get entangled in a dangerous plan against an impossible deadline.

Jackson, Wyoming is a town. Jackson Hole, Wyoming is a valley. I didn’t know that—I thought it was all “Jackson Hole”. That’s the problem with a place becoming famous, it pushes reality aside.

 The town of Jackson has, somehow, become an afterthought within the town of Jackson. This townie/outsider dynamic is the space Nickolas Butler works in while crafting Godspeed, his new novel, to be released on July 27th, 2021 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons. The work comes in at 352 pages and the hardcover and will cost $27.

Godspeed is the story of Gretchen, Teddy, Cole, and Bart. Gretchen is a high-powered corporate attorney with numerous secrets and an un-waiverable construction time constraint. Teddy, Cole, and Bart own Triple Triangle construction and they are struggling. The men are looking for a chance to break into Jackson’s lucrative high-end home-builder circles—a crack at the American dream.

Gretchen comes to Triple Triangle with a proposition: if they complete an impossible job by Christmas—they will make more money than they’d ever thought possible. The task is building a spectacular home in an extremely remote area outside of town. The home’s been started, but the original builder quit after the rushed pace resulted in a colleague’s death.

Triple Triangle takes the gig. Soon, a series of tragic events unfold. Secrets are revealed and the unrelenting pressure takes a heavy toll. A shocking crime happens, and the challenges may be insurmountable.

The prose in this book is gorgeous. As a reviewer, I make notes of great sections to quote in my work. With this book, that wasn’t necessary. I can open to almost any page and find a poetic and lyrical passage that impresses. For example:

“Sleep, when it came, was like a velvet mallet to the head, an almost instantaneous knockout, like falling down the shaft of a thousand-foot-deep mine into complete darkness. There were nights when Bart’s only true experience of happiness was that fraction of a second before his eyes truly drooped shut, when the promise of sleep enveloped him like the dark wings of a gargoyle, sealing off the rest of the world—goodnight.”

And this passage:

“The bridge itself was destroyed, he now saw, lying in the river beneath a giant boulder, which must have somehow come down off the mountain in the knight, miraculously missing the house at least, and the hot springs. Now it sat there, in the middle of the river, hulking on the broken bridge like a drunken ogre, water angrily frothing all around it, the banks on either side of the river thoroughly chewed apart.”

The author does an outstanding job describing the feeling of doing methamphetamine. I’ve never used the drug, but I felt what the novel’s character felt. The author’s confidence as an artist also shows through in how he writes this passage—I was very impressed. The passage:

“He inhaled—

 

To a RRRRUUUUSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! There it was—the rush! Like, like, like fucking grabbing the tale of a COMET, like traveling at light speed even as he stood s…t…i…l…l, like diving from the tallest mountain and discovering that you’re a platinum fucking falcon from the highest reaches of heaven. Oh, fuck, the ecstatic RUSH.”

My dislikes were minimal. A few parts felt “blue-collar-dismissive.” A few of the main characters were less developed than I’d have liked, and two were overly similar, but those are minor quibbles, and as much personal taste as legitimate faults. 

In conclusion, three guys quickly building a house sounds like an odd setup for a crime novel, but it works. The story is fast-paced and well written. This was a good book. The prose is great. The author made me care about the characters, and I was invested in the outcome. I enjoyed this book and recommend it.

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