The Gunners

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 27 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

“Issa said, ‘Do you want to know what my mom used to say about honest questions?’ ‘What’s that?’
‘They can be like farts. It feels good to let them out, but once you do, sometimes they just make the whole room stink.’ Everyone laughed, including Sam.

The Gunners are adults here, with their partners, sharing feelings, asking questions, and revealing secrets. They are five of the six kids who used to use an abandoned house with the name “gunners” on the mailbox. Because it became their house, they called themselves the Gunners. 

They seem to be made up of the obligatory one of everybody. Well, not everybody, but nerd, tubby, smart, poor, rich, quirky, pretty, disfigured, daring - obviously some cover more than one category.

The sixth kid was Sally (pretty and poor), who has committed suicide. Mikey lived with his father only a couple of houses away from her and her alcoholic mother. Sally was his first real friend, but sometime when they were all about 16, Sally suddenly withdrew from them all, even Mikey, and nobody seemed to know why. 

The story is told in different voices, some of it when they were children and some now that they’re adults. 

“Sally loved spending time with Mikey. He never seemed to have a nasty opinion about anything. Like her, he seemed equally satisfied to talk or not talk, and he never asked hard questions. This suited Sally just fine. There were things she didn’t want to talk about, things that Mikey would never think to ask.”

Mikey was crushed when Sally died.

“Mikey was broken, muddled, distracted. He could think of nothing else, yet no matter how long and hard he thought on Sally, he could never reach her center. Furthermore, as he tried to recall memories of her, he realized he could never reach his own center—he could never reach something that felt entirely real, or true. He began to wonder if he had no center. A hollow man. Mikey was in touch with Alice, Jimmy, Sam, and Lynn to make sure the news had reached them. They all planned to come to town for the service.”

When they do get together, each claims responsibility for Sally's estrangement from them. Each feels guilty. Maybe that's because our own story always revolves around ourselves.

I recognise the characters as kids who could have come from my own school, and if had been about them or my neighbourhood, I might have found it interesting. Recognising them isn’t enough. It seemed like a case of “you had to be there”. As it was, it seemed like an “in” story about someone else’s life that I was overhearing with only mild curiosity.

Thanks to NetGalley and Serpent’s Tail for the preview copy from which I’ve quoted.
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The premise isn’t wholly original - a close-knit group of childhood friends gets together after one of them dies - but the novel is. 
The characters are well-drawn and the novel really grew on me as I discovered why all were in some way culpable for Sally’s suicide.
It did take a little tinr for me to get right into it - hence my four stars instead of five. 
There were passages that I found really touching to the point of tears, and I’m not easily moved! 
Somehow the novel felt very authentic.
I’d really recommend it if you’re also interested in the inner workings of human relationships, frailty and the nature of friendship.
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You know those books that are just a pure delight to read? The Gunners is one of them. I started it yesterday evening and finished it this morning. I’ve got loads of things that I need to do, but I just had to finish this first - I could not put it down. It doesn’t get five stars because I found a certain unfinished quality to the ending, but aside from that, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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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. One of them loved numbers and solutions. One of them loved music, and she wished the world was more beautiful. One of them was a fearless leader who wanted to protect the others. One of them always wanted to make the others laugh. One of them was kind, and he taught the others how to be good to one another. The last one was...a mystery. The six of them needed one another. They belonged together."

     And that's the story! The one who is a mystery-Sally-is gone. Death by suicide. The others come together for the first time in a decade to try and make sense of that which makes no sense, and realise the strong bonds that bound them together are as true as ever.

     At times, Kauffman slips into creating caricatures as she tries to distinguish between the friends. On occasion, when yet another of the group says; "It was my fault." that Sally died, it can feel repetitive. Once in a while, for example when the gay woman asks her oldest friend to help her have a baby, one feels the tale slipping into cliche.

     But, I absolutely LOVED this book. It kept me company during a 3 hour wait in A and E, and I was almost frustrated when my name was finally called and I had to close my kindle. Charming, laugh-out-loud funny in places and heart-rending in others. It is a touching tale of friendship that should not be missed. Enjoy.

I received a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for honest unedited feedback. Thank you.
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„The Gunners“ is a nice little story of childhood friends who grew apart after one of them, Sally, decided to break up with them. Now they are thirtysomething and are coming together again because Sally committed suicide. 

When I say it is a nice little story I mean it exactly like that. It is a nice little story and nothing more. I enjoyed reading it but there are also a lot of things I could criticize. There is not really much of a story. The characters are all not very interesting and a bit stereotype. The writing is not very spectacular. There is a lot of talking and explaining. I found the authors way of ending a chapter a bit disturbing. Most of them ended somehow abruptly in the middle of something. Very strange. They all kept secrets from each other but suddenly they tell each other everything I did not really get why. It all is somehow a mess and quite unrealistic. It is also a bit frustrating because there is no real explanation why Sally did what she did, then and now. And why do we have to read about the meat plant and the job Mikey’s father was doing?  I did not get that. But somehow, as weird and mediocre written as it is, it managed to entertain me. 

I am not disappointed although I expected a bit more. It is an easy read but you don’t miss anything when you skip it.
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The Gunners.. what a fantastic book!  This book was just what I needed... a great story and a break from serial killers! It was a beautiful story about friendship, love and family. It was funny, sad and thought provoking. I read it in 2 sittings, and would have been happy for to keep going. Wonderful characters with so many layers who touched my heart in so many ways. You need to read this book.

The Gunners are a group of school friends who hang out in an old abandoned house. On the letter box is the name Gunners.  The kids are so different but at the same time have a lot in common.  They are not the popular kids at school and their friendships are strong. But like all friendships they start to drift apart and only stay in touch via email. When one of them kill someone themselves they all return to their home town for the funeral. Long forgotten memories resurface and truths come out. So many assumptions have been made about things that happened when they were kids, assumptions that have helped shape their lives. 

It is a wonderful story of how friends will always be there for you, no matter what.  Thank you to Serpents Tail and NetGalley for my advanced copy of this book to read. All opinions are my own and are in no way biased
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3.5 stars

"The Gunners" are a group of six childhood friends who reunite when one of them, Sally, commits suicide. Sally stopped talking to the rest of the group when they were 16. The others keep in touch, however, as everyone moves out of town, the contact is limited. When they finally all meet at the funeral, they revisit the past and a few old secrets are revealed. 

Perhaps because I read so many great books this year, I was not wowed by this. Don't get me wrong, it is a good book and a couple of years ago, I might have given it 4 or 5 stars, but I felt like the childhood friends premise has been done so many times before. 

The one aspect of this book that stood out for me and I enjoyed the most, was the father-son dynamic between Mikey and his father John. It was touching to discover what lies underneath the seemingly distant and emotionless relationship.

Many thanks to Serpent's Tail for a free review copy in exchange for an honest unedited feedback.
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"The Gunners" is a story of friendship between six children, who grow up very close until one of them leaves the group which ultimately drives them all apart. This book explores friendship and family ties and what makes us love other person. I thought it was a lovely story, well written and I enjoyed getting to know different characters. Although I enjoyed the story  as a whole I do not think Sally's mysterious disappearance was properly explained. and this somehow spoiled the book for me.
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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.)
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The Gunners is a meditative novel that looks at friendship, life difficulties, and difference. Mikey, Sam, Lynn, Alice, Jimmy and Sally were childhood friends, united by their relative freedom as latchkey kids and the abandoned house they made their den. When they were sixteen, Sally disappeared from their lives, no longer their friend seemingly without reason. Years later, they reunite for the first time for her funeral, and it turns out there were plenty of unspoken secrets about the time when Sally left. 

The premise of The Gunners doesn’t sound particularly original, but the novel itself is quirky and thoughtful. It goes down routes that might not be expected, showing the differences in friendships and the ways in which people’s lives diverge and come together. It has a real focus on friendship that isn't undercut as it can be in other novels and it really engages with the weirdness of drifting away from a group you were very close with and then coming back together. The ensemble cast is handled well, with the narrative looking into the childhood of each character alongside the present day.

A novel about friendship and hardship that keeps the focus on the friends, The Gunners was an enjoyable read, if at times as elusive with the past narrative as the characters were.
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A group of friends reunite and secrets from the past are revealed. The novel explores what really constitutes family.
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