Francie’s Got a Gun by Carrie Snyder

Ten years old and on the move from something, we’re introduced to the titular Francie and her gun, running down the street, not headed anywhere specific, just running. After a short and mysterious prologue, setting the tone of the novel as a set of memories, Carrie Snyder plunks us into the middle of Francie’s story. This is a twisty, tragic novel centred around a family suffering from poverty and substance use, and the catastrophic event which rips Francie’s father from them, wholly and completely. This could be a straightforward story: couple meets young, has children young, man develops substance problems, woman tries to keep family together, substance use becomes an increasing issue, and a decision made while the man spirals leads to far-reaching consequences. This alone would make a sad, tense novel, but Snyder’s approach elevates the story; in Francie’s Got a Gun, Snyder traces the way Francie ends up running with a gun, in a strange and sweeping maze of information slowly revealing how Francie’s vulnerability led to her flight.

We learn more about Francie and the conditions of her life through the viewpoints of the people around her: her best friend Alice, Alice’s sister Kate, her grandmother, her mother, her teacher, Alice’s parents, and above all, the father she worships. Francie’s life is complicated, but her preoccupations are those of a normal ten-year old. She’s got her heart set on performing the solo at her school concert. Alice is a good friend but not nearly as imaginative as she should be. Her baby brother is, well, a baby. Francie is sweet and innocent, and it becomes easy to forget in places throughout the novel, that we’re circling back to determining why Francie was running with a gun. Snyder brings us back every so often, dropping us into the panicked version of Francie, trying to go as far as possible, soaked, and scared.

Francie’s Got a Gun is at once tense and tragic, sweet and tender. Snyder writes with deep compassion for all of her characters, who enter the story at different points with their own baggage, biases, and obliviousness to the rest of the influencing factors on the situation. The slow reveal of how the story got to Francie climbing a tree with a gun is well-crafted and compelling – there is never a draggy or useless point on the journey there, and Snyder falls well on the side of making the withholding of information a compelling reason to keep reading. This is a strong, complex novel, with a myriad of layers that elevate Francie’s Got a Gun to a timeless novel.

CARRIE SNYDER is an award-winning Canadian writer who has published three books of literary fiction and two books for children. Her most recent, bestselling novel, Girl Runner, was a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Prize and published in twelve countries. Her novel-in-stories, The Juliet Stories, was a finalist for the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction. She is a consulting editor for The New Quarterly magazine and publishes an award-winning literary blog, Obscure CanLit Mama. Carrie Snyder lives in Waterloo, Ontario.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Knopf Canada (July 26 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 296 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0735281912
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0735281912
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