Thank you to the lovely team at Counterpoint Press for my copy of The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman. All thoughts and images are my own.
Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book
Following her wonderfully received first novel, Another Place You’ve Never Been, called “mesmerizing,” “powerful,” and “gorgeous” by critics all over the country, Rebecca Kauffmann 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.
A while back, my best friend and I were discussing what very specific genre of books we were “experts” in. His was clear to us: he is a true fan of stories set in prep schools, usually all-boys, often set in New England. My favorite of his recommendations: Old School by Tobias Wolff. It’s a must read for all book lovers.
I had more trouble narrowing mine down, but I think I’m starting to figure it out. I love stories about a group of friends (four, five, six, gender doesn’t really matter) in which each comes of age in their own way, or deals with a ghost from their past. When I was a kid, I was hooked on books like Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. Nowadays, I’m just as happy to read about adults dealing with their past as I am kids coming into their own. A recent favorite in this category was The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu. And I’ll now be adding The Gunners to my list.
If that is my ultra specific genre, this book fits perfectly into it. To be completely honest, I did not read the description of this book before opening it. My friend Tara said she loved it and that was enough for me to jump right in. And I’m pretty glad I did, because now reading what is posted above, I don’t think the synopsis does it justice. This story is powerful and simply written and I think the summary complicates it. So if the synopsis above turned you off, please ignore it.
The simplicity of the storytelling is pitch perfect. Kauffman is brilliant at creating an uneven drip of information that will have you begging for more; she reveals The Gunners’ secrets in a way that keeps you interested and simultaneously demanding more. Not all questions are answered (and that’s ok).
This is a solidly good book. If you enjoy small town reads about people realizing how much they need one another (and that it’s ok to feel that way), you’ll enjoy this.