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The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler: EW Review

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We gave it a B+

The Boy Scouts are already half a relic when Hearts opens in the early 1960s—a hopelessly square vestige of the past in a world on the cusp of free love and Vietnam. But for Nelson Doughty, small and bullied and far too uncool for his campmates, the group is a refuge, offering him the moral code, structure, and father figure he craves. And the kernel of a bond he forms there with an older boy named Jonathan will echo, for better and worse, down the following decades. Butler (Shotgun Lovesongs) captures the rites and rhythms of young manhood in intimate, clear-eyed detail, shifting nimbly between multiple perspectives, several generations, and two wars overseas. If a sudden swerve into melodrama in the final pages feels oddly off-key, it’s not enough to derail the story or diminish the impact of this distinctly American tale: a potent exploration of friendship, betrayal, and all the markers of masculinity that can’t be measured by badges and trust falls. B+

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