Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The Gunners

Author: Rebecca Kauffman
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 261
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Counterpoint
First Published: March 20, 2018
First Line: "Mikey Callahan discovered something about himself when he was six years old."

Book Description from GoodReadsAchieving bold emotional complexity, The Gunners explores just how much one moment, one decision, or one person can change us Following on her wonderfully received first novel, Another Place You’ve Never Been, called "mesmerizing," "powerful," and "gorgeous," by critics all over the country, Rebecca Kauffman returns with Mikey Callahan, a thirty-year-old who is suffering from the clouded vision of macular degeneration. He struggles to establish human connections—even his emotional life is a blur.

As the novel begins, he is reconnecting with "The Gunners," his group of childhood friends, after one of their members has committed suicide. Sally had distanced herself from all of them before ending her life, and she died harboring secrets about the group and its individuals. Mikey especially needs to confront dark secrets about his own past and his father. How much of this darkness accounts for the emotional stupor Mikey is suffering from as he reaches his maturity? And can The Gunners, prompted by Sally's death, find their way to a new day? The core of this adventure, made by Mikey, Alice, Lynn, Jimmy, and Sam, becomes a search for the core of truth, friendship, and forgiveness.

A quietly startling, beautiful book, The Gunners engages us with vividly unforgettable characters, and advances Rebecca Kauffman’s place as one of the most important young writers of her generation.

My Rating: 4.5 stars

My Review: The Gunners is a story about six inseparable childhood friends who name their group after the surname on the mailbox of the dilapidated old house where they hang out. This group - Mikey, Sally, Alice, Sam, Jimmy and Lynn - did everything together until they were sixteen years old and Sally inexplicably left their group, fracturing it beyond repair.

Years later, they come together for Sally's funeral. Through different points of view, in two different eras, Kauffman shows the ups and downs involved in growing up within a tight knit group of friends. These relationships were wonderful, complicated and helped them weather the challenges of growing up.

This is a story about complex family dynamics and the effects of long-held secrets, but the main focus is on friendship and how, if you're lucky, the friends you make growing up will continue to have a special place in your life. These are the people who have seen you through tears, helped you weather family squabbles, stood by you after that horrific perm of Grade 6 and everything in between. As this story progresses, secrets are revealed, confessions are made and the bond, made decades before, remains one of the things that continues to hold them together. 

This is a feel-good kind of story that focuses on the influence life-long friendships can have on who we become as adults. If you're lucky enough to still be in touch with childhood friends, this book will have you reaching out for your 'oldie but goodie' friends and taking a trip down memory lane. 

Note: This review is dedicated to my very own Gunners: Beth, Nicole, Kris, Drew, Chris, Larissa, Barb, Kelly, Tracey …. I'm so very lucky to still have you in my life (and thankful that you don't have any pictures from the 'perm that shall not be named'). xo

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