It’s been unusually hot these past few days, but it’s cool enough right now to enjoy a steaming cup of chai and a delicious date bar. The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, I’ve got laundry drying on the clothesline outside, and there’s still one more day left on this long weekend… what could be better than that?!
Last week I read a Young Adult book by Canadian author Heather Smith, The Agony of Bun O'Keefe, and it was an unexpected treat. This OLA White Pine award-winner tells the story of fourteen-year-old Bernice (Bun) O’Keefe who, after living a sheltered life in a house in the country in Newfoundland with her mentally unstable hoarder mother, is told to “get out”, and so she does. She makes her way to St John’s, where she befriends Busker Boy, a young Indigenous man with a melodious voice who takes her in and offers her the kind of home, love and protection she never had before. She meets the other renters in the house, Big Eyes, Cher/Chris and Chef, who all take her under their collective wing and try to shield her from any more hurt. But when danger comes lurking at their door in the form of their loathsome landlord, will their protection be enough to save her? And what, if anything, will be the consequences? Bun is incredibly naive for her age, having been raised in isolation by her neglectful mother. She hasn’t been to school since she was six, and her mother, though claiming Bun will be home-schooled, does nothing to undertake any sort of education. But Bun is also incredibly book-smart, storing all the information and every fact she’s ever learned from books or television, and the awkwardness with which she shares these facts with others make her endearing, not just pitiful. The success of this book is, at least for me, largely due to the brevity of the details provided, which left this reader plenty of opportunities to fill in the gaps and imagine either the worst- or best-case scenarios. Bun seems to be on the spectrum, but is this truly the case or was she simply responding to the environment in which she was raised, and can she change if she has a more stable environment surrounded by people with whom she has a loving relationship? The bonds between the housemates, the diversity of the characters, and the willingness of the adults to take on the responsibility of a youth, something her own mother (and father) neglected to do, made this book both heart-wrenching and heartwarming. I’m not sure why this book came to my attention at this time, as it’s been around for a number of years. Perhaps it was on a list of books dealing with mental illness, as May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Whatever the reason, I’m so glad it did, as it was a quick read, a short book that was still able to tell such a complex, moving story. I would highly recommend this to just about anyone.
That’s all for today. Stay cool and keep reading!Bye for now…