There’s an echo of Emma Donoghue’s Room in this story. Pearl speaks in a raw voice that can sound awkward one moment and precocious the next — a wholly believable consciousness for a child raised in such strange, constrained circumstances ... Full of sorrow and aching sweetness, Gun Love provides a glimpse of people who dwell every day knee deep in the toxic waste of our gun culture. They may be America’s forgotten children, but after reading this novel, you are not likely to forget them.
Through a memorable coming-of-age story set in America’s margins, Clement makes all of these things true at once: A gun is a valentine, a secret-bearer, a penitent, a world destroyer, an exposed belly, an insurance policy, a sudden act of God ... It might be tempting to read this novel merely as an exemplar of the neo-Southern grotesque — a lush, humid tale of rural hard-lucks made all the more strange by the incongruous beauty of Clement’s lyric prose — but Gun Love is neither swampy freak show nor poverty porn. Rather it’s a fable of modern American violence, and the resilience it takes to survive a childhood in its shadow.
Clement is a brilliant stylist; her figurative language is far more than fine; her metaphors and similes are superb; and together they create a haunting atmosphere—sometimes fey, occasionally whimsical, no stranger to tragedy but always heartfelt and spot-on, as are her beautifully realized, captivating characters. Though sui generis, her work may remind some readers of Flannery O’Connor’s. Always evocative, it is an unforgettable knockout not to be missed.