Lean on Pete, Paperback Book
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Fifteen-year-old Charley Thompson wants a home; food on the table; a high school he can attend for more than part of a year; and some structure to his life.

But as the son of a single father working at warehouses across the Pacific Northwest, he's been pretty much on his own for some time. "Lean on Pete" opens as he and his father arrive in Portland, Oregon and Charley takes a stables job, illegally, at the local race track.

Once part of a vibrant racing network, Portland Meadows is now seemingly the last haven for washed up jockeys and knackered horses, but it's there that Charley meets Pete, an old horse who becomes his companion as he's forced to try to make his own way in the world.


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What a great novel this was – the simply and starkly written account of Charley, a young boy in the neglectful care of his single father. His life starts off tough and gets steadily tougher. The synopsis on the back talks of his involvement with a racehorse, and I was expecting a book about the horseracing scene, but it heads in directions I didn’t expect. Comparisons on the back cover with ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ are spot on. The reader hopes for a happy ending, but all the time fears things will go as badly as they did in ‘Grapes’. It was a harrowing read, all the more so for the bleak emotionless first-person narrative. Many themes emerged: Charley’s mistrust of the ‘system’, the way the crimes he commits from the earliest stages in the book never seem shocking, and the way he never loses his own humanity and generosity (thinking particularly of the doughnuts). Of all the books I took on holiday with me, this was the outstanding read.

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