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Fiction Psychological

Francie's Got a Gun

by (author) Carrie Snyder

Knopf Canada
Initial publish date
Jul 2022
Psychological, Family Life, Literary
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2022
    List Price

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A suspenseful and poignant tale from an award-winning writer about a girl navigating chaotic family life in a close-knit small town.

On a June afternoon in a small city, a wild-eyed girl named Francie dashes down a neighbourhood street, clutching a gun. She doesn’t know exactly what she’s running from, and she doesn’t know what she’s heading towards. All she understands is the need to survive. To save herself, she has no choice but to run—and to save those she loves, she must hold tight to that gun.
Swirling around Francie is a chorus of friends, family, and neighbours, each person with a different view of her. As we hear from these voices—Francie’s steadfast best friend, Alice; Alice’s comically unaware mother, Sally, and struggling mathematician father, David; Francie’s distressed and distracted mother, Marietta, and troubled, unwell father, Luce—a fractured portrait emerges of the girl and the village surrounding her. And at last we arrive at a still point in the chaos: a tall tree where Francie takes shelter, and where the meaning of her flight—for herself, and for the people around her—becomes clear.
In Francie’s Got a Gun, award-winning writer Carrie Snyder assembles a chorus of unforgettable characters who are both well-intentioned and flawed. At their centre is Francie, a vulnerable, imaginative girl with surprising attachments to each of them. Here is a propulsive, polyphonic, heart-expanding novel—equal parts sorrow and humour, fear and love, anger and kindness—about social breakdown and the quest for connection in a close-knit community.

About the author

Carrie Snyder is the acclaimed author of three books for adults. Her 2014 novel, Girl Runner, was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and has been translated into several languages. The Juliet Stories was a finalist for the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award, and her debut short story collection, Hair Hat, was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Award for Short Fiction. The Candy Conspiracy is her first book for children. Carrie blogs at Obscure Canlit Mama (, where she documents her writing, photography, recipes, and life with four children. She lives in Waterloo, ON.

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Excerpt: Francie's Got a Gun (by (author) Carrie Snyder)

A lot of things were going wrong, all at once.

Francie couldn’t feel her hands or lips or feet. She knew that the air was warm, thick, almost wet, and she knew that her jeans were sticking to her legs, like she was swimming not running. Her arm, hanging from her shoulder, was so heavy—she knew that was the gun, but she couldn’t feel it in her hand. It was as if in one sudden move—lurching forward, wrenching away—Francie had become someone else, another girl entirely, maybe not even a child, a stranger. Was it possible to split in two? To float above herself, like watching another person?

Floating and watching, floating and watching. 

She had no pity, only curiosity, for this other girl, running, running, running. The girl—the other Francie—was a pretty good runner, but her feet were tangled in sagging cuffs, flapping sneakers, and she couldn’t see so well, overgrown bangs, hair in her eyes, her heart was going to hammer through her throat.

The floating Francie could watch, and wonder, without having to feel the crackle of fear, its electrical snap. The terrible thing that it seemed they had all been waiting for, silently, numbly—almost expecting—had happened, suddenly and all at once.

Now, she had to run.

There was no other choice but to hide and to run, to run and to hide. It was like playing a game, but the game had no rules. It’s okay, she told herself, watching from above, it’s okay, because you’ve got the gun, now, you’ve got the gun, not him.

But she didn’t want the gun.

A lot of things were going wrong.

The hot June afternoon. The tangling jeans. The neighbourhood behind the school that she didn’t know at all, with streets all hushed and grand and empty, smooth paved blackness turning round and round, as if to confuse her. She ran like a rat dropped into a maze.

The gun.

She forced herself to feel it in her hand, to wrap her buzzing fingers around it, tightly enough not to drop it by accident. It looked small, but it was heavy. Blunt-nosed, a snout like an angry little animal, one you could not make friends with or adopt or bring home, no matter how you tried.

But Francie wasn’t running home. She wasn’t running anywhere, just away. The thought was almost enough to break her apart entirely: the floating Francie imagined what it would look like if the Francie who was running, hot and red and lost, down the middle of a silent street, was to shatter, break into all her parts—an arm, a leg, and then a kneecap, a toe, and into smaller and smaller bits until she was nothing at all. Invisible, scattered like dust.

But that Francie did not shatter. Did not stop. Not quit. 


She heard the sound of a car or a truck turning into the street behind her, but she didn’t look back, not even a glance. To look back would be the end. And this was not the end, not the end of Francie. The floating Francie suddenly saw through the other Francie’s eyes, and it was like being pulled inside a tunnel, a quick tightening of vision, sharpened onto a still point of light ahead, everything else fading into a blur.

She could hear her breath, harsh, wheezing. Like a car with a bad muffler. Or was that the truck, the red pickup truck with the broken window, behind her?

Like in a dream she would dream over and over, Francie saw herself veering onto perfect green grass, soft with the click of soaking sprinklers, she was at the top of a steep hill, she was plunging down. Inside her head a small whine was sounding, like an alarm. It seemed to grow stronger, louder, it wanted to break through, it wanted her to let it loose, to scream.

But she couldn’t let it loose.

She had to be silent. Silently screaming through a mist of cool water that rose as if by magic from beneath dark green grass beside a house of steel and glass, an enormous house as big as the houses Dad used to build—bigger, even. Down, down, down through wood chips and fresh plantings of tiny bushes and crawling vines, terraces held by huge smooth rocks. Francie skidded and jumped, trying to stop the hand with the gun from catching her as she stumbled,
close to the house, glimpsing decks that jutted like shelves overlooking a seemingly endless lawn, wide and rolling.

Open space.

The tunnel burst wide. Not safe, exposed.

She’d slipped to her knees, fallen onto patio stone, her elbow ached, the elbow attached to the hand with the gun raised. Anyone could see it. One breath, two, shallow, raw, lifting her to her feet, tipping her forward, as she sensed rather than saw a woman wearing headphones and pushing a vacuum across an interior floor; sensed, dreamlike, the woman pause, notice her, step to the shining wall of windows, and in that single flashing frame become a shadow
from which Francie was fleeing, away into the open, across this wide, smooth-shorn green field.

A golf course. A cart rolling to the top of a hill and stopping, the men like tiny action figures climbing out, moving around.

The gun hung from the hand that did not feel like Francie’s hand.

She saw herself lift it and slide it under her t-shirt, to hide it against her stomach. Now it was harder to run, awkward, and she had the sensation again of swimming rather than running, swimming, something she wasn’t any good at, flailing and sinking under the surface.

The gun felt cold against her stomach. Her stomach felt empty, even though she remembered sitting at her desk at first nutrition break and chewing on the butter-and-jam sandwich Grandma Irene had made this morning. Her backpack felt empty too, bouncing on her shoulders, even though she remembered zipping the lunch box into it before walking down the hall, obeying the secretary’s too-familiar call over the loudspeakers: “Will Francie Fultz please come to the office.
Francie Fultz to the office.” Mrs. G in front of the whole choir, flinging her baton on the gymnasium floor, waving her arms: “Francie, this is impossible! You can’t leave now! The concert is tonight, and this is our only dress rehearsal! What could be more important?”
Well, this, Mrs. G.

Francie was wearing her favourite t-shirt, black with a sparkly cat formed of glued-on jewels, not real, and below the cat, the word LOVE spelled out in jewels too, also not real, except in an imaginary world. The shirt could be turned inside out for the concert, which Mrs. G said they could do, if they were desperate. The choir should all look the same, dressed head to toe in black, “like professionals,” Mrs. G said. When Francie drew the cat shirt over her head this morning, so soft and stretchy, so shiny with jewels, she heard Mrs. G’s voice saying, if you’re desperate, and she didn’t think Mrs. G knew what that word meant—desperate.

Francie scrambled through a wide, sandy pit in the grass. She was too much inside herself suddenly. She wasn’t floating anymore.

Her sneakers were full of sand.

A hole opened up behind Francie’s eyes.

She could see Dad slouched in the torn-up dirt. Bleeding. Like he was going to kill someone, like he already had. But that wasn’t over, that was now. That just happened, was still happening. She could see his face, red and wet, his eyes leaking, but not real tears. “Here, take it,” Dad said. “Now get the hell out of here.”

A lot of things were going wrong.

Her eye was full of sand, where her hand wiped it by accident. Not the hand with the gun.

“Fore!” Pastel shirts, pink faces under white ball caps, heads bobbing as the golf cart zoomed down the hill. The action figures were becoming real.

Francie ran toward a wall of bushes. The bushes were thick. Wriggling on her belly, she crawled in deep. 

It wasn’t just Dad she kept seeing, slouched in the torn up dirt. It was Mikey. Him too. Seeping, slumped, fallen into the gravel and dirt. Lying there. He looked at her with his sad brown eyes as she took the gun, and ran right by him.

Editorial Reviews

“An exquisitely crafted, deeply imagined novel . . . unfolds with the sure-footedness of an elite runner.” —Cathy Marie Buchanan, author of The Painted Girls, on Girl Runner
Francie’s Got a Gun is a tender, pulsating novel about a girl and a supporting cast of characters drawn with such complexity and rawness you feel as though you are inhabiting not only their worlds but their living, breathing bodies. Carrie Snyder has—by some miracle—succeeded in writing a novel that has its own heartbeat.” Tasneem Jamal, author of Where the Air is Sweet

“Extraordinary, accomplished . . . a wonderful story of a free spirit forced to make difficult choices . . . grabbed my hand on page one and never let go.” —Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants, on Girl Runner
“I loved every character in Carrie Snyder’s compelling new novel, Francie’s Got a Gun. In beautiful prose, Snyder unfurls Francie’s story through a chorus of perspectives, illuminating the hopes, flaws, disappointments, small preferences and large ambitions within a community. Together these voices propel the narrative toward a devastating, beautiful, and pitch-perfect conclusion. Carrie Snyder has pulled off a magic trick with this novel—it is a literary feat.” Emily Urquhart, bestselling author of Beyond the Pale
“Doesn’t let you go until the very last page . . . this original and moving story . . . has something of the quirky charm of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.” —Daily Mail on Girl Runner

“Fans of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver . . . will love this.” —Chatelaine on The Juliet Stories

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