Gun Love is what happens if the Gilmore Girls became a less quippy duo specializing in lyrical symbolism, trailer park omens and moth-riddled heirlooms.
Pearl France has never known life outside the backseat of her mother’s broken-down car. She was born in a bathtub to her 16 year old mother Margot, a rich debutant afraid of her violent father. Margot flees to a trailer park in central Florida, where her broken-down car becomes a temporary home for her and baby Pearl. The “temporary” arrangement lasts for fourteen years, until Margot meets a man who will lead her down a devastating path.
Gun Love is a gorgeous literary commentary on pervasive gun culture in America. Clement is subtle in her stance, disguising her mission statement with elevated language. Her poetry reminded me tremendously of Francesca Lia Block’s body of work. Whereas Block focuses the integrity of her efforts on delicate Los Angeles mythos, Clement uses a raw feminine edge to draw a line between birth and violence against a Florida backdrop. Dark, brooding undertones lurk in the black rivers that belong exclusively to crocodiles and bullets.
There’s so much to discuss in this small novel, it would be a crime not to celebrate its breadth. There’s a scene in which Pearl is being rescued from a foster home by a woman named Corazon who lived in the trailer park near Pearl and Margot’s vehicle/house. Corazon is a mule for her husband Ray, moving guns over the border into Mexico.
Pearl is hidden in the backseat while they make a break for the border. She’s laying with two oversized bags filled with rifles, buried under two heavy rucksacks of pistols. As she jostles with the guns, she imagines them singing to her of all the souls they will take. She’s lying on a throne of guns, listening to them sing her the future.
This isn’t a book about the second amendment. It’s a book about the cradle we make for violence, how we welcome it into our arms and tenderly nurture it until it’s choking us. Then we look around and wonder where all these bullets came from.
Gun Love is one of my favorite novels of the year, and I do hope it becomes widely read fiction. This nation could use a minute of self-reflection.
Thanks goes to our beloved but dearly departed Blogging for Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.