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‘The Gunners’ Is Like ‘The Big Chill’ Meets ‘The Interestings’
Cover: Couterpoint/Background: Twenty20

If adult friends are the people who help you navigate the pitfalls of work, family and matching your shoes to your handbag, childhood friends are the ones who largely shape the type of person you become.

These formative (and ever-changing) friendships are at the heart of Rebecca Kauffman’s new novel, The Gunners.  

In upstate New York in the 1980s, Mikey, Lynn, Sally, Alice, Sam and Jimmy are inseparable from a young age. They call themselves The Gunners (after the name on the mailbox outside of the abandoned house that serves as their meeting place) and essentially do everything together. 

That is, until junior year of high school, when Sally suddenly and inexplicably abandons the group. In the years that follow, the remaining Gunners drift apart, until they’re reunited in their hometown in their early 30s after Sally commits suicide. 

Jumping from the past to the present, we see the characters reflect on their lives as individuals—as well as how they relate to the group. We watch Mikey struggle with his strained relationship with his father, Sam dwell over a line-in-the-sand moment with Sally and Alice grapple with feeling directionless and malaise. We also see how each person addresses (or doesn’t address) Sally’s death, and the role they may have played in it.

With hints of Meg Wolitzer’s 2014 The Interestings (minus the summer camp) and the 1983 movie The Big Chill (minus the soundtrack), Kauffman’s second novel is a realistic meditation on the lasting power of friendship. Except she’s way too clever to ever use a phrase as trite as “the lasting power of friendship.”

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