26 January 2012

Review: Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr

In 1974, rural Wisconsin was a few years behind the times, especially in terms of civil rights, child protective services, and women's liberation, When Michelle LeBeau, half-Japanese, arrives in Deerhorn to live with her paternal grandparents, she can tell right away she'll never fit in. Only her dog's companionship and her grandfather's devotion sustains the fourth-grader, who was abandoned first by her mother and then by her father.

When the first black family moves to town, Michelle is initially relived to be out of the spotlight, but as the town's bigotry begins to escalate, everyone in the tight-knit community must take a side, pitting husband against wife, brother against brother, friend against friend. That was the year Michelle learned that who people seem to be on the outside does not necessarily match who they are on the inside.

Nina Revoyr's Wingshooters captures one kind of American small town in the post–civil rights era. That the novel is set in the upper Midwest and in the 1970s makes the betrayals, small-mindedness, and violence particularly difficult. The citizens of Deerhorn don't leave home unless forced to (as when men are drafted) because no one who goes away ever comes back the same. And being different, changing, is bad.

Although the other kids have shoved her and have even thrown stones at her, Michelle manages to maintain some of her innocence. While it's true that even the priest has never warmed up to her, she feels safe and secure in her grandfather's love and protection. When trouble brews over the black couple, who not only have the audacity to move to Deerhorn but are more educated than most of the locals (she a nurse; he a teacher), the girl sees the horrifying results of blind hate.

Other prominent themes in Wingshooters are child abuse (nonsexual), marriage, and gender roles. Michelle's love of the outdoors, her dog, and baseball round out her personality, making her more than just the witness to harsh realities. Revoyr's moving coming-of-age story will have wide appeal and is not to be missed.

Wingshooters was the recipient of several awards, including a Booklist Book of the Year 2011, a 2011 Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, and the first annual Indie Booksellers Choice Award. It was also an Indie Next pick for March 2011. For more on Nina Revoyr, visit her website, where you'll also find a very thoughtful reading guide, or follow her on Facebook.

My review of the unabridged audio edition (Recorded Books; 6 hr, 50 min) read by Johanna Parker will be available on the AudioFile magazine website.

Wingshooters at Powell's
Wingshooters at Book Depository
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Published by Akashic Books, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781936070718
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: A

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

13 comments:

Beth Hoffman 1/26/12, 8:15 AM  

Wonderful review, Candace! This book is gong at the top of my list right now.

JoAnn 1/26/12, 10:40 AM  

This sounds like exactly the kind of book I would love... another addition to my wish list!

Sandy Nawrot 1/26/12, 11:23 AM  

I really want to read this one. Hey, I grew up in the small-minded Midwest in the '70's so I wouldn't have much trouble imaging what it would have been like if a half-Japanese or black person moved into our county. KKK was alive and well there back then.

Nise' 1/26/12, 12:25 PM  

I was a teenager in this time period. Sounds like my kind of read. Thanks for the great review.

Daryl Edelstein 1/26/12, 1:31 PM  

I am adding this to the list!

Anita 1/26/12, 1:39 PM  

Though I've shared with you about meeting the author I never realized the characters name was LeBeau, that's my name, well my husbands. Interesting.
I think I'm going to see if I can locate this on audio.

bermudaonion 1/26/12, 2:05 PM  

It's nice to see a book about prejudices and bigotry that's not set in the South. This sounds like an amazing book!

Zibilee 1/26/12, 3:23 PM  

Nina Revoyr was a guest at the UCF Book Festival last year, and I got the chance to hear her speak about the book. It was a really interesting and powerful panel, and I walked away from it feeling the need to read the book for myself. Your review has just reinforced that for me. Very thoughtful and interesting analysis today. I appreciated it very much!

Belle Wong 1/26/12, 4:06 PM  

Great review, Candace. This sounds like a very intense read.

Julie P. 1/27/12, 3:20 PM  

Great review. Another good one!

Just Mom 1/28/12, 5:49 PM  

I don't think I have ever read a book set in Wisconsin, thsi one sounds very good!

Kailana 1/30/12, 5:15 PM  

I actually really like the cover to this book.

Kris Meyer 2/6/12, 2:28 PM  

This one sounds like a very good and very thought provoking book. We all know what that means..on the wish list it goes.

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