How strong are the bonds of friendship?
In his debut novel, Vince Wetzel explores the evolution of lifelong friendships and how they withstand the strains of human failures.Jim organized their annual guys trip to the lake. He picked the date. He booked the spot. He even chronicled every adventure over the past 20 years in a ragged notebook. Now, he is a box of ashes that his four closest friends will take up to the lake one last time. Over the course of their final weekend together, they will read Jim's journal through his eyes, reliving their shared laughter, life moments, revelations, and regret while coming to accept their grief.Friends in Low Places is a funny, poignant, sometimes heartbreaking portrayal of male relationships and the support they provide as boys mature into men
Friends in Low Places deftly illuminates the intricacies of the male-bonding experience, following five best friends over several annual camping trips that embody everything from side-splitting laugher around the campfire to youthful heartbreak to drinking Olympics to crushed lifelong dreams to the ultimate power of forgiveness. There's a lot of love and hope in this novel, an interweaving of lives that shows the importance of vulnerable communing and always offering a hand when the valleys grow deeper. A nostalgic nod to the friendships we hold dear and the kinds of men we've always admired.
I couldn't help reflecting on my own camping trips, the rituals of an annual gathering with friends, the laughter around mischief and debauchery, the moments you'll always cherish with your bros, and the times you want to punch those same dudes in the face. Author Vince Wetzel taps into all these emotions, introducing us to relatable characters that are flawed and funny (my kind of people), and stories that remind us how mistakes can lead to life-long consequences. There is healing in nature, there is reconciliation around the guys that know you best, and the best rejuvenation is "Friends In Low Places."
If you haven’t reached out to a group of old friends in awhile, Friends in Low Places will compel you to. Author Vince Wetzel’s debut novel is an endearing story about more than four high school friends – Paul, Rob, David, and Jesse – rekindling an annual camping trip to the lake. This is a tale of solidarity, introspection, loss, and the volatility of lifelong friendships.
This year’s “guys’ camping trip” was special – the dying wish of the fifth member of their cohort, named Jim. During the weekend, the friends would be spreading Jim’s ashes around a secluded lake that he had long adored. Jim’s influence on the emotional strings of the book is unmistakable. In fact, the memories of trips past are from the point of view of a tattered journal given to the group by Jim’s wife prior to their departure.
In spite of the overtone of their friend’s passing, Friends in Low Places is less of a tear-jerking, tissue-emptying tale, as it is a celebration of the experiences the group has shared over the years. From their college-aged drunken escapades picking up girls on the beach, to nursing hangovers as adults, to harboring guilt for leaving wives and children behind for the weekend, each character’s journey is as interesting as relatable.
While I found myself, at times, struggling with the chronology of the journal’s tales, the relative timing of the stories is not as important as the lessons each character has learned through these annual camping trips together. As Rob, Paul, Jesse, and David (ie: MIHO) ribbed each other about past mistakes they’ve made, or lamented the twists of their lasting friendships, I found myself thinking of long lost friends of my own.
Adding the tragedy of Jim’s passing posed a creative way to cut through the silliness of the group’s drunken camp stories to heavier issues that adult men are reluctant to otherwise share with each other – times of sadness, struggle, and acceptance of vulnerability.
I closed Vince Wetzel’s Friends in Low Places better for having read it.
I found myself evaluating the legacy I’m attempting to create, the friendships I’ve made (and lost), and, ultimately, a burning desire to call my buddy Ryan to say ‘What’s up?’.
Thanks Mr. Wetzel, I think I’ll call my old friend now.
A stirring, inspiring celebration of friendship...
Wetzel unleashes a searing portrait of enduring male friendship in his poignant debut. It was in high school when five boys: David, Rob, Jesse, Paul, and Jim recognized themselves in one another and became friends. Decades went by and their friendship endured. Getting together annually is one of the traditions the group followed. But this year is different: Jim has organized the trip, finalized the date, booked the spot, and his ragged journal chronicling two decades of their adventures is also ready. The only thing missing is Jim himself. Struggling with their grief, the friends set on their trip to say final goodbye to Jim and spread his ashes and come to a new understanding about their own struggles and their bond with each other. Wetzel skillfully shifts his narrative between different timelines, tracking the friends as they move in different directions through early youth and into adulthood, temporary fissures of their affection, the crises they weather and share with each other, their youthful mistakes, and the chances they take. Though narrative gets hampered by some of the sections unnecessarily protracted, the story is rich and absorbing. Throughout, Wetzel touches on the universal themes of human failures, regrets, individual struggles, friendships and family ties. Wetzel's portraits of the lasting male bonding are authentic, and his crisp prose effortlessly navigates the stirring thoughts of his characters. The flawed characters readers can relate to, including Jesse, who is reluctant to visit the past, the endearing David with his integrity, work ethics, and understanding, complement the absorbing plot. This riveting account will please readers of enduring friendships stories.