The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman

The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman

The Gunners
by Rebecca Kauffman
Counterpoint (March 20, 2018)
224 pages
Advance copy provided by publisher

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Having endured several unsatisfying experiences, I hesitate to pick up an author's sophomore effort when I'm not already familiar with their work. Rebecca Kauffman has defied those odds; to say that this novel exceeded my expectations is a major understatement. The Gunners is spectacularly stunning and, several days after finishing, I continue to think about these characters, mull over their stories, and desperately grasp for a definition or description worthy of its significance. 

Alice, Sally, Lynn, Jimmy, and Sam became Mikey’s friends when they were neighbor kids, all living on the same block, all seeking playmates as well as an escape from their own homes. The children claimed one of the abandoned homes on Ingram Street as their official meeting place, and the rusted mailbox mounted to the front door of the house read THE GUNNERS in gold Mylar stickers.

At just 224 pages, it is a relatively quick read; I have no doubt I could easily have finished it in one sitting, but I felt compelled to slow down and savor every moment, every truth revealed. While some have mentioned a Big Chill-esque vibe, with five childhood friends reuniting for the funeral of the sixth member of their group, The Gunners is set apart thanks to the brilliant way in which Kauffman takes readers on a journey back and forth, alternating between present and past, sharing the vulnerability of each character in such a relatable, authentic way. 

Then he lost himself to the memories of it, of times when things were not hard and not complicated, when there weren’t lies and secrets, when you couldn’t stay mad. Laughter. Sweat. Grass-stained knees. All the hours the six children had shared here, where they were protected by one another and this space from their parents and the outside world.

There is nothing tidy about their stories; these characters' lives are messy, imperfect and, at times, heartbreaking. Having said that, Kauffman keeps things from veering into dark territory with a perfect balance of heart and humor; this is a book that I wanted to devour without ever reaching the end. 

That word love...it was scary and outlandish to him. But what was life if not a long series of scary and outlandish things you did and said and asked of your heart, so you could carry the wild and unreasonable hope that someday someone would hold your face and say, You are perfect. You can rest now. You were always perfect to me.

For fans of novels like A Little Life, Everything I Never Told You, The Interestings and tales of deep, powerful friendship, The Gunners is a gem; I'll be recommending this one for a long time to come. 

March 2018 Miles & Pages

March 2018 Miles & Pages

New Week, New Book (3/19/18)

New Week, New Book (3/19/18)