The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman
Reviewed by: Jennifer Chretien, Reference Staff
Rating: 4.5 stars
Six friends against the world. That's what "The Gunners", named after the sign on their clubhouse, considered themselves. Then one day Sally wakes up and decides to never talk to her friends again. Ten years later, Sally is dead and Michael is the only one left in their hometown unable to move on. The five remaining friends reunite at the funeral, each one believing they were the reason Sally abandoned them. Haunted by their past transgression, they all clutch desperately to each other in hopes their reunion can offer salvation.
This was the perfect book for me to read in the early summer. School is ending, people return to their hometowns for family gatherings, and there is the awkward feeling of being out of place when you return home for a visit. Unless you still live locally, your hometown is this strange liminal space that never quite allows you to completely grow up. When you have a core group of friends who grew up with you, somehow it isn't all that unsettling after all.
The Gunners is about friendship, family, and coping with loss. The novel switches between the past and present in order to give perspective on how Sally's abandonment left a lasting effect on the group. It is a beautiful, at times amusing, and incredibly touching story. Yet, not really much goes on plot-wise. So if you need a novel with a lot of action, this is not going to be for you. It's a book that creates an atmosphere and emotion rather than an action. This is where my issue with The Gunners lies; I felt a little bit of an explanation into Sally's abrupt change in attitude was necessary. I suppose that was the point though, not everything has an explanation. Despite this minor annoyance, this was a wonderful book that affected me a lot more than I expected it to. It's been a week, I've finished 3 novels since then, and I am still thinking about the characters.
If you enjoyed nostalgic movies like "The Big Chill" then you will love The Gunners. Even if that is normally not your taste, the brilliance of The Gunners is that it somehow transcends generations so that almost everyone can find someone to identify with.