Rating – 4.75 out of 5
The Singer’s Gun by Emily St. John Mandel is a beautiful vignette of people on the edges of society. Anton Walker is a reformed passport forger who is trying to start a new life, but his past will not let him move on so quickly. On the eve of starting his new life Anton agrees to do one last job. In an attempt to finally rid himself of the guilt of the illegal work his whole family is involved in, Anton is once again embroiled in moral complexity. Will he be able to rid himself of this lifestyle and walk away in the clear?
“‘It’s all right,’ She said, ‘you don’t have to answer me if you don’t want to. It’s an enormous question.’
‘No.’ Anton said, ‘let me try to answer it, no one’s ever asked me that before. What was it like when I was growing up? It was wonderful, mostly. But I always wanted something else.’
‘What did you want?’
‘The same thing I want now,’ he said. ‘A different kind of life.'”
– The Singer’s Gun, Pg. 45
Why I liked The Singer’s Gun by Emily St. John Mandel
Emily St. John Mandel is a world-class storyteller. Her stories stick with you long after you finish the last word. This novel was not as earth shattering as Station Eleven, but it is still a work of art. Anton Walker is a complex character with a rich back story, as are all of the characters in this book. Mandel dives deeply into the lives of these characters and crafts all of them into recognizable characters from our own lives. I felt like I had met Anton, and the people involved in his operations. While they are obviously people who are not in the legal right, this novel gave beautiful backstory to the decisions they had to make to survive.
The book itself is a slow burn into the main action of the story. While I was on the edge of my seat for a few pages, most of the book was backstory and character development. I enjoyed it all the same, but that is something to note if you’re looking for a book with more plot. I found the most impactful part of Anton’s development working through his identity. He started the novel running away from who he was. As the reader learned what had happened, he worked through his identity crisis and became the man he wanted to be. The complexity of his feelings with his work and family was a fascinating journey to read and be a part of. Overall, The Singer’s Gun, is another triumph for Mandel that I will have to enjoy again.
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