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The Gunners: A Novel by Rebecca Kauffman

The Gunners: A Novel

by Rebecca Kauffman

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9210196,148 (3.94)3

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‘”Once upon a time, there were six best friends,” he said. “They were all different, but they fit together very nicely.”’

In Buffalo, 5 friends in their early-thirties come together for the funeral of Sally, who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. Once, the six had been The Gunners, local kids who grew up and hung out together in the same street, but now Mikey, Alice, Lynn, Jimmy and Sam have to come to terms with how one of their group shut herself off from them as a teenager, and now many years later they struggle to understand her death.

This is not necessarily an original premise – think ‘The Big Chill’ or ‘thirtysomething’ or the like – but Kauffman handles the story in a delicate and confident way. There are several set-pieces as the book develops – a lake-side chalet where the friends gather after the funeral, and then later on in the book Lynn gets married – and as we learn more about the characters we see how each of them need and love each other. Everyone has secrets, and each of them struggle to find their way in life, to forge their own identity. At the books heart is Mikey, the quiet one, the kind one who ‘taught the others how to be good to one another’. Suffering from macular degeneration, Mikey is the kind of character you just want to hug and protect, and his failing eyesight becomes an almost-reverse metaphor for the book, for as he loses his ability to see the world around him in all its glory, so each of the characters learn to find their way in life. The ending is subtle, quiet, and deeply moving. We don’t find any answers for why Sally cut herself off from the group, or why she killed herself – the book avoids tying-up neatly things that actually we can’t understand. But we do get a sense of moving on, even if the future is unclear.

This is a book about finding out who we are and how we define ourselves in terms of family and where we come from, in terms of our friends and partners and pets, and about dealing with the crap that life will throw at you. It is a well-written, deeply moving account of friendships and the bonds we make, and I definitely recommend it.

(With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC in return for an honest and unbiased review.) ( )
  Alan.M | Apr 16, 2019 |
I could write a lot about how much I liked this book but it feels too exhausting to tackle right now. I loved all the characters, even the ones I didn't particularly like I loved. I can't count how many times I've felt how Mikey has felt. Removed, distant. Not sure what people see it me. Unclear as to how I've gotten where I am. This book really was tailor made for me. Thank JOHANNA for recommending it to me!! ( )
  Katie_Roscher | Jan 18, 2019 |
I was reading this novel over the Thanksgiving Holiday, and it is a good novel to read over the course of a family gathering. The book explores a friendship over many years, with periods of coming together, drifting apart, and reconnecting. The characters are marvelously complex. And although the plot wends its way through very easy themes and simple storytelling, there are moments when I think it is brilliant and might appeal to more literary readers as well. Aside from a rather simple plot, the book also discusses secrets, desires, things said, things not said, and the way they all compound and influence our relationships. The things not said often burrow deeper, allowing imaginations, always gained by an isolated solitary perspective to run wild. And yet.....

Mostly this book excels at the grace to be found in that final bit, the "And yet", of care. ( )
  dooney | Dec 3, 2018 |
A pretty lacklustre redo of an equally unspectacular film—The Big Chill, only with Generation X characters. Instead of friends who met in college, we have friends who met in childhood and used to congregate in abandoned house (formerly owned by “The Gunners”) in Lackawanna, a derelict suburb of Buffalo, New York. The greater part of the book consists of conversation and spilled secrets when the group meets for a funeral. (One of the friends commits suicide when all of the friends are in their late 20s.) The writing is competent enough, but overall I found the book bland and unengaging. I suspect I was supposed to be warmed by the message about enduring friendship. I was not. One character’s visit to the slaughterhouse where his father works just horrified me. I cannot stand that kind of subject matter and the author’s reason for including it were transparently stupid. I did not like this book. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Jul 5, 2018 |
Rebecca Kauffman’s latest novel The Gunners is a skillfully crafted, character-driven novel with one noticeable flaw: it’s a bit uneven. That’s not to say it’s an extreme case of the horrible mixed with delightful; the difference is between great and merely “good enough.” When The Gunners is at its best, it really moves. It is brilliant and compelling. The characters are complex. And then there are times when the novel feels a little light. It takes the route through easy storytelling and simple plot devices. These are the moments that might bore more literary readers, but the readers of commercial fiction will likely not notice. I recommend this novel for readers of both camps, particularly those who love wonderfully drawn characters, but I suspect some readers will similarly notice this patch of roughness. ( )
  chrisblocker | Jul 1, 2018 |
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"A thirty-year-old who is suffering from the clouded vision of macular degeneration ... [is trying to reconnect] 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"--Amazon.com.… (more)

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