Opening like an early Tom Waits barstool-tale, "The Motel Life" tells the story of two brothers, Frank and Jerry Lee. Taking to the road in an attempt to escape the hit-and-run accident caused by Jerry Lee, the novel goes back to tell the story of their unhappy lives. With intense feeling and compassion, Vlautin explores the frustrations and failed dreams of the two brothers - one a natural storyteller, the other an artist - and renders perfectly the sense of entrapment they feel. Will the kid's death shock them out of their torpor or send them ever deeper into trouble? Can Annie James, a girl from their past, offer them any sort of redemption, however slim?