Fleeing Las Vegas and her abusive boyfriend, Allison Johnson moves to Reno, intent on making a new life for herself. Haunted by the mistakes of her past, and lacking any self-belief, her only comfort seems to come from the imaginary conversations she has with Paul Newman, and the characters he played. But as life crawls on and she finds work, small acts of kindness start to reveal themselves to her, and slowly the chance of a new life begins to emerge. Full of memorable characters and imbued with a beautiful sense of yearning, Northline is an extraordinary portrait of contemporary America from a writer and musician whose work has been lauded as "mournful, understated, and proudly steeped in menthol smoke and bourbon" (New York Times Book Review).
What redeems Vlautin's work is that his objective isn't to produce belles lettres, but to tell the stories of America's underclass, as he did in his first novel, The Motel Life…Willy Vlautin tells [Allison's] story with unrelenting clarity, and although the novel ends with her at relative peace, the next day is likely to deliver another disaster. Northline serves as a reminder that America's beaten, broke and miserable are not necessarily morally bankrupt or clueless victims. They're just trying to get by on minimal resources, little education and a bit of hope.