cover image The Gunners

The Gunners

Rebecca Kauffman. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $26 (272p) ISBN 978-1-61902-989-7

Kauffman’s perceptive, funny, and endearing novel (after Another Place You’ve Never Been) is set against the backdrop of a funeral in snowy Lackawanna, a depressed suburb of Buffalo, N.Y. The seemingly light (but deceptively profound) story follows a once–close-knit group of six friends as they navigate the stresses of adulthood while grappling with long-held secrets from the past. Called “The Gunners”—after the name on the mailbox of the abandoned house they hung out in as kids—30-year-old Mikey, Lynn, Alice, Sam, and Jimmy reunite for the first time since high school to pay their respects to their sixth member, Sally, who committed suicide. As with any coming-to-terms-with-past-decisions-and-getting-older exercise, the friends reminisce about old times and share their triumphant successes and embarrassing failures. Despite the well-trod premise, Kauffman’s prose never veers into campy territory. The admissions of her characters provide deep insight into their individual personalities, and also into human vulnerability more broadly. These include Mikey’s fear surrounding his waning eyesight and conflicted sadness about his strained relationship with his father; Sam’s intense shame about a defining moment he had with Sally long ago; and Alice’s outlandish behavior that masks an entrenched inner turmoil. Reminiscent of The Big Chill and St. Elmo’s Fire, this remarkable novel is just as satisfying and provides readers with an entire cast of characters who will feel like old friends upon finishing. Agent: Michelle Tessler, Tessler Literary Agency. (Mar.)