Heather Smith’s Naive Voice of Darkness and Hope

This uniquely narrated novel is a quick and beautiful read

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe opens with 13-year-old Bun being told by her hoarder mother to get out of the junk-filled house they share. From this starting moment of disaster, we watch, spellbound as Bun makes her way to the big city of St. John’s and looks for a place to call home. From the beginning of Bun’s story, the kindness of strangers is her lucky break and the eccentric circle of housemates who accept her as she is, makes her the luckiest.

We meet the gang of ragtag characters living together in a rundown house in downtown St. John’s in the late 1980s. Busker Boy, Chef, Cher, Big Eyes and the Landlord all come alive to us through Bun’s eyes. We never learn most of their names but Bun identifies them through her observant and bizarre descriptions. Bun lacks many social skills and always says the first thing that comes to her mind due to her being alone most of her life. We see Bun learn to care, learn to love and learn life can have sweet and wonderful people in it. Yet, the more we care the greater chance we have of getting hurt.

Bun has to come to terms with where she comes from, who her mother was, and deal with the memories of her father that haunt her. Her friends, who have become her family, help her navigate these difficult paths, proving that sometimes one must create their own circles of love to move forward.

This uniquely narrated novel is a quick and beautiful read told in the unusual and naive voice of the incredible Bun O’Keefe. At times the novel is dark and full of injustice and other times a rainbow holding hope in your heart.

A very worthwhile story.

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe
Heather T Smith
Penguin Teen


Written By

Laurie Burns is an English as additional language teacher to immigrants, literacy volunteer and voracious reader living in Halifax.

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