Title: Gun Love
Author: Jennifer Clement
Source: Free ARC from Hogarth
Rating: 4 stars
Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from Hogarth via NetGalley. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.
Summary: With the exception of the first few weeks, Pearl has lived her entire life in a car. Her mother Margot was only a teenager, growing up in a home with a father who put her to sleep by having her sniff gas from the stove every night, when Pearl came into the world. Pearl was born albino, her father one of her mother’s teachers (married with children, naturally), and having no other family, but unwilling to stay with her father, Margot took her then new car, and even newer baby, and ran away to Florida, taking up residence in a trailer park temporarily. “Temporarily” turned into Pearl’s entire childhood as her mother’s mental health issues prevented her from holding down a job. Despite all of this, Pearl was relatively happy, not knowing any different, and having a fierce attachment to her mother that was returned in kind. Until a new man moved into the trailer park and changed everything.
Review: Jennifer Clement’s Prayers for the Stolen was the first galley I ever reviewed. It was strange and startling and tremendous, a book I’ve never forgotten. When I heard Gun Love was coming out, it went on my Most Anticipated List and I waited impatiently to see if I’d be lucky enough to get a galley (I did!). And now that I’ve finished it, I’m still mulling over my feelings about it more than a week later.
I’m not entirely sure what I expected from this book. In the end, I can’t make up my mind if it’s more about guns or love or simple human resilience. Even into adolescence, Pearl is so accepting of her world, clings to it actually, and though it is hard to fathom, I imagine there are many real people, real children, living this way all over our country. And after all, that does tend to be what Jennifer Clement does, highlight the everyday of those who live in the underbelly, who go unnoticed and ignored. And while I have a hard time connecting all the dots, she definitely highlights several alternate realities here: the lives of the working poor, our terrible treatment of veterans, living with the constant fear of having your children taken because you don’t have “enough” according to state standards, how the poor are criminalized rather than helped, and how prevalent guns (and violence!) are in our daily lives, perhaps without us even realizing it.
Given our current state of affairs, the subject matter is painfully relevant. The story itself moved too quickly for me in the last half, so much happening, so much craziness, and that is where I began to struggle with the end game of the story. I have so many questions! That said, a book that leaves me thinking and questioning is a book well worth reading. And the writing was lovely.
A solid 4 stars for me.