Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr

The Wingshooters

By Nina Revoyr

PBR Book Review:

(by- Linda ) Life in a small town can be oppressive and constricting - it's residents wary and unwelcoming of strangers, change and dissimilar thoughts. This is the backdrop for "The Wingshooters". The story centers on a young biracial Japanese- American girl, who is left to live with her white grandparents in a rural Wisconsin town. It's a beautiful coming of age story - a story of being different and feeling like an outsider and learning to live with the conflict that arises when the people you love and depend on are bigoted and flawed. Recommend for those that enjoy a more literary read that provokes thought and charges the emotions.

Book Club Talking Points:

The subject matter in this book is deep. The story is laced with hatred, racial tension and issues of bullying, child abuse, violence, class and gender roles. Charlie, in particular is an interesting character. He has a strong attachment to his biracial granddaughter but is also bigoted and resistant to change - demonstrating the fine line between love and hate and showing the strength of the bonds of blood?

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*Discussion Questions

1. Charlie LeBeau helps people in his community, and is a loving caretaker to Mikey. Yet he is also one of the men most deeply involved in the effort to intimidate the Garretts. How can all of these qualities exist in one man? Do you consider him a good person or a bad person?

2. Wingshooters is set in 1974, during the Boston bus crisis, at the end of the Vietnam War, and just after the Civil Rights movement. How do national and world events influence the things that happen in the novel?

3. Mikey is half-Japanese, and lived in Japan for several years. When she moves to Deerhorn, she is not welcomed by many people in town. Why are people unfriendly to her? Do you know of situations where people have been unkind to children, or where kids have been unkind to each other? What kind of impact can this sort of experience have on a child?

4. Charlie and Stewart LeBeau disagree about many things. Do you understand the decisions that Stewart makes? Do you sympathize with him in his conflict with his father? Why or why not? How do Charlie and Stewart conform to the expectations of men of their respective generations? How do they differ from those expectations?

5. What are the some of the benefits of a small, tight-knit community like Deerhorn? What are some of the things that are less ideal?

6. Charlie, Uncle Pete, Earl, Ray and their friends are "men's men." They like to hunt and fish and watch sports, and they proudly work blue-collar jobs. What are the positive aspects of this kind of traditional masculinity? What are the limitations? And how does Mikey feel about the example they set?

7. What is the place of women in Wingshooters? Think especially of Helen, Mikey's grandmother. Does Mikey fit the expectations for girls in town? Does Betty Garrett fit the conventional roles? Why or why not?

8. Why is Mikey so drawn to the Garretts? Why does she go to the satellite clinic to visit Mrs. Garrett? Why do the Garretts make a point of being kind to Mikey?

9. Darius Gordon and Jim Riesling seem to be the only two people in town who don't approve of how the Garretts are being treated. What is it about these men that allows them to see things differently?

10. Michelle's dog, Brett, is one of the main characters. What is the significance of his role in the early parts of the book-and of his part in the novel's climactic scenes?

11. Kevin Watson is harboring a terrible family secret. Have you been privy to such secrets-either in your own family, or in someone else's? What have you done about them? How do you feel about how you handled the situation?

12. Wingshooters is told from the point of view of an adult Michelle, looking back on events that occurred when she was nine years old. What is the effect of this kind of narration? How would the story be different if it were truly told from the point of view of a nine-year-old child?

13. How might Earl Watson's childhood have influenced his opinions and choices as a grown man? What are the implications of his story?

14. The Garretts act on principle, even after it becomes clear that doing so is putting them in danger. Why do they do this? Do you agree with their decisions? Have you ever stood up for something on principle, even if you knew that the consequences might be negative for you?

15. In several instances, Canada Geese appear in the story. What is their significance to Mikey, and to the story? How do they relate thematically to Mikey's situation?

16. Revoyr begins the book with two very different epigraphs. How do the epigraphs relate to the novel and its themes?

17. Late in the novel, Michelle states that "blood does not run thicker than color." What does she mean by this? Do you agree? Do the events of the novel support this belief, or contradict it?

18. Wingshooters includes many references to faith, sin, and redemption. How do these themes play out in the story? Who is in need of redemption? And can redemption always be achieved?

19. Do Mikey's feelings toward her grandfather change through the course of the story? Why so-or why not? How does Michelle feel about her grandfather years later, when she's an adult? Have you ever had to deal with someone you love behaving in a way you don't expect or agree with?

20. Wingshooters is set in a small Midwestern town almost 40 years ago. Could something like the events of this story happen today?

21. Can you think of an instance, either in your own life or more generally, when someone reacted badly to a person or group because they were different? What happened? And what do you think of the situation now?

22. In Wingshooters, small-town norms and sensibilities seem at odds with changes in the larger world. Do the characters, settings, or dynamics of the novel have any parallels in present-day America?

Book Summary

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 English Springer Spaniel, 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 disapproved of his son's marriage to Michelle's mother but dotes on his only grandchild, whom he calls Mikey.

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. Betty Garrett is hired as a nurse, and her husband, Joe, works as a substitute teacher at the elementary school. The Garretts' presence deeply upsets most of the residents of Deerfield-especially when Mr. Garrett makes a controversial accusation against one of the town leaders, who is also Charlie LeBeau's best friend.

In the tradition of To Kill a Mockingbird, A River Runs Through It, and Snow Falling on Cedars, Nina Revoyr's new novel examines the effects of change on a small, isolated town, the strengths and limits of community, and the sometimes conflicting loyalties of family and justice. Set in the expansive countryside of Central Wisconsin, against the backdrop of Vietnam and the post-Civil Rights era, Wingshooters explores both connection and loss as well as the complex but enduring bonds of family.

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.

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