Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Agony of Bun O'Keefe

Author: Heather Smith
Genre: Teen, Canadian
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 224
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Penguin Teen
First Published: September 5, 2017
First Lines: "She yelled, "Go on! Get out!". So I did."

Book Description from GoodReadsSet in 1980s Newfoundland, The Agony of Bun O’Keefe is the story of a 14-year-old girl who runs away to the city and is taken in by a street musician who lives with an eclectic cast of characters: a pot smoking dishwasher with culinary dreams; a drag queen with a tragic past; a Catholic school girl desperately trying to reinvent herself; and a man who Bun is told to avoid at all cost.

My Rating: 5 stars

My ReviewSet in 1980's St John's Newfoundland, this story follows the life of Bun, an endearing and quirky character who quickly wheedled her way into my heart. After living with a mother who ignored and berated her her entire life, 14-year-old Bun leaves home and is found by a young street busker who brings her to his home and the gaggle of people he lives with. 

These misfits are a bunch of lost souls themselves, each with their own issues that readers will learn about. But together they become her family and give her the love, attention, compassion and support that she needs (and that often they didn't have in their own pasts). Through them Bun is taught what it's like to belong, to be loved and to be supported.

Bun is as endearing as she is odd and outspoken. She's damaged by years of neglect, malnutrition and ignored most of her life by her mother. So it should come as no surprise that Bun is naive and not up on social norms. She also doesn't 'do' jokes and sarcasm but she's honest, has an eidetic memory and some of the innocent comments that come from her mouth are priceless and often on point. 

Smith's writing is simple yet powerful and I was wonderfully surprised by how deep the book was able to go with its relationships, emotions and the issues it addresses which include sexual abuse, racism,neglect, prejudice and grief. While some scenes were hard to read, overall this book is very uplifting and filled with lessons about compassion, acceptance, hope and love within a family that Bun built herself. 

In a mere 224 pages, Smith pulls together a touching story, endearing characters and evokes emotion I wasn't expecting for such a wee book. The Agony of Bun O'Keefe packs a big punch.

Highly recommended.

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