Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Wingshooters, Nina Revoyr, Akashic Books, 2011, 250 pp
Summary from Goodreads: Michelle LeBeau, the child of a white American father and a Japanese mother, lives with her grandparents in Deerhorn, Wisconsin--a small town that had been entirely white before her arrival. Rejected and bullied, Michelle spends her time reading, avoiding fights, and roaming the countryside with her dog Brett. She idolizes her grandfather, Charlie LeBeau, an expert hunter and former minor league baseball player who is one of the town's most respected men. Charlie strongly disapproves of his son's marriage to Michelle's mother but dotes on his only grandchild.

This fragile peace is threatened when the expansion of the local clinic leads to the arrival of the Garretts, a young black couple from Chicago. The Garretts' presence deeply upsets most of the residents of Deerhorn--when Mr. Garrett makes a controversial accusation against one of the town leaders, who is also Charlie LeBeau's best friend.
My Review:
I had no idea how powerful this novel would be. Nina Revoyr's other novels have been set in California but this one takes place in a small Wisconsin town, though the Japanese angle is still represented by Michelle LeBeau, daughter of a white American father and a Japanese mother. She is the sole person of color in Deerhorn and is an outcast at school where she is tormented by her classmates.
When her father brought a Japanese wife home the family disapproved. Michelle's mother eventually abandoned them and her father took off after her, leaving Michelle with a grandfather who doted on her and a grandmother who fed and tolerated her.
It is a heartbreaking story, all the more because of what Michelle goes through as her father's promises to return for her go unfulfilled and her hero worship for grandpa is foreshadowed to be destroyed. 
When an African American couple from Chicago come into this hidebound, racist, and ultimately violent community, all of their prejudices and inhumanity are exposed and put to the test. It is a chilling portrait of a small and insulated town where no views have changed for generations. The ultra-conservative wing of America holds sway as the townspeople do whatever they feel they must to "preserve their way of life."
This is the second book I've read this year set in the Midwest. (Kitchens of the Great Midwest was the other one.) When I first moved from Michigan to Los Angeles in 1991, I missed what I had experienced as the open friendliness and strong family ties of the region. But like anywhere, a dark underbelly of human fears and close mindedness dwelt side by side with those American values.
So if you want your eyes opened further to the great divides in American society that is what you will get, right up close and personal, with accurately drawn characters. But if you can't take cruelty and violence perpetrated by men against women, children, and animals, be warned.
One of Nina Revoyr's many sobering truths comes at the end. No one ever fully recovers from trauma. We live with our hurts and losses for all of our lives. To me that explains why humanity doesn't change much. The wonder is that some people rise above it all and still care for and about their fellow humans.
I haven't looked back over my year in reading yet, but this just may have been the most emotionally powerful book I read all year. 
(Wingshooters is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.) 


  1. It sounds like an emotionally wrenching read. I think I would have to be in just the right frame of mind to tackle it. I can barely stand to read about violence against humans - especially children - and I can't at all stand to read about cruelty to animals. I have to skip over those parts. I admit it - I am a wuss.

    1. That is why I put the warning in my review. I didn't want any backlash. That's my wuss factor! But if you were really mad at, oh say, any ridiculous political candidate, you could vent by reading the book and getting even more mad. Just kidding.

  2. Hahaha... I hear Trump said yet another idiotic and insensitive thing (just kidding).
    Sounds like a book which should be read, but those things would upset me.

  3. The premise has me curious -- about Michelle and if she makes it thru this. I'll add it to my list. I gave my sister Lost Canyon for xmas and likely will read that one first. Which one did you like better?

    1. Until I read this one, I liked Southland the best and Lost Canyon the next best. Now I think Wingshooters is perhaps her best. I am interested to know what you think.