Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Gun Love

Title:  Gun Love
Author:  Jennifer Clement
Publication Information:  Publisher. Date. pages.
ISBN:  1524761680 / 978-1524761684

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "My mother was a cup of sugar."

Favorite Quote:  "Dreaming is cheap. It doesn't cost a thing. In dreams you don't have to pay the bills or pay the rent. In dreams you can buy a house and be loved back."

Margot and Pearl, mother and daughter, are a family on to themselves. Margot became a young mother through a pregnancy hidden from her family. When Pearl was a few weeks old, Margot took her and ran, seeking a different life for herself and her daughter.

Where does life lead them? Home becomes a '94 Mercury in a parking lot on the side of a trailer park in Putnam County, Florida.  Pearl's room is the front seat while Margot has the back. This is the only home Pearl has ever know. "We lived a dot-to-dot life, never thinking too much about the future." Pearl is now fourteen years old.

Regardless of the conditions of her upbringing, Pearl is loved. Her mother works hard and cares for Pearl. She also teaches her the spirit of resilience and survival. "Thanks to my mother I knew memory was the only substitute for love. Thanks to my mother I knew the dream world was the only place to go." Despite the hardships, the enclave of their car seems a cozy haven until the outside world and its threats enter.

Their community is the trailer park residents, an eccentric and eclectic cast of characters. What becomes the resounding theme of Pearl's life though is guns and gun trafficking that passes through this trailer park. A gun also forever changes Pearl's life.

Based on the setup, I am not entirely sure the book is for me. Guns are not my thing. The cast of characters and the setting are odd enough to be close to the boundary of going too far into "odd." The leaps of logic especially about the lack of and then sudden appearance of social services is a stretch. The open-ended conclusion to this book ends the narrative, but Pearl's story is left in the middle.

Yet, despite all of that, the book works. Frankly, only one thing holds me back from a higher rating. That is the depiction of social services in this book. It's hard to give details without a spoiler. However, a big part of the book has me wondering where social services has been for the fourteen years of Pearl's existence. Their sudden appearance has me equally surprised because they show up instantly. What follows is a depiction of the system that is uncharitable at best and does a disservice to those who faithfully work in the system and genuinely try to make a difference.

That point aside, the book works. The writing is beautifully visual in creating the setting. The characters are not as memorable, but the images of this car that is a home and the trailer park will stay with me for a long time.

I don't particularly like any of the characters. I particularly don't understand Margot and her decision to live the way she does. I definitely don't like the role guns play in this book. In some sense, the title of the book is literal; it is about a love affair with gun. However, even then, the book works because more than Margot's decisions and the guns, what I leave this book with is the image of love from the beginning to the unexpected ending.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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