Review/ The Agony of Bun O’Keefe

Review/ The Agony of Bun O’KeefeThe Agony of Bun O'Keefe by Heather Smith
Published by Penguin Teen on April 2, 2019
Pages: 224

Little Miss Sunshine meets Room in this quirky, heartwarming story of friendship, loyalty and discovery.
It's Newfoundland, 1986. Fourteen-year-old Bun O'Keefe has lived a solitary life in an unsafe, unsanitary house. Her mother is a compulsive hoarder, and Bun has had little contact with the outside world. What she's learned about life comes from the random books and old VHS tapes that she finds in the boxes and bags her mother brings home. Bun and her mother rarely talk, so when Bun's mother tells Bun to leave one day, she does. Hitchhiking out of town, Bun ends up on the streets of St. John's, Newfoundland. Fortunately, the first person she meets is Busker Boy, a street musician who senses her naivety and takes her in. Together they live in a house with an eclectic cast of characters: Chef, a hotel dishwasher with culinary dreams; Cher, a drag queen with a tragic past; Big Eyes, a Catholic school girl desperately trying to reinvent herself; and The Landlord, a man who Bun is told to avoid at all cost. Through her experiences with her new roommates, and their sometimes tragic revelations, Bun learns that the world extends beyond the walls of her mother's house and discovers the joy of being part of a new family -- a family of friends who care.

One of  the things I love about the upcoming MTL YA Fest is all the new to me authors coming in for the event and Heather Smith is one of these authors coming in. I have never read any of her books before today and I am not quite sure why since I have had this one on my wishlist for some time.

Heather is originally from Newfoundland and is currently living in Waterloo, Ontario with her husband and three kids. She is the author of Chicken Girl (which I am hoping to get to this month), Bay Girl, Ebb & Flow, Angus All Aglow, and A Plan For Pops.

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe was a super quick read that I manged to read pretty much in one sitting. The books follows the main character Bun who is only 14 years old on her journey after her hoarding mother has told her to leave. Bun leaves with the clothes on her back and nothing else.

Once she leaves she hitchhikes into St. John’s (Newfoundland) she meets a boy named Busker Boy (because that’s exactly what he does he is a street musician) and he takes her under his wing because he knows that she has no clue about the outside world. I should tell you that the story takes place in Newfoundland in the late 80s.

Busker Boy takes her back to his place where you get to meet a wide range of characters such as Chef (who works in a local hotel as a dishwasher), Cher aka Chris (who is a drag queen), Big Eyes (a catholic girl who is trying to figure things out) and the Landlord (who is a jerk with a sketchy history). All these characters play an important role for Bun in her life and to the story.

As you read the book you can’t help but feel bad for Bun, she has missed out on so much in her short life from going to school to having friends. She has also lived with the guilt of thinking her father left because of her. Will she ever find out the truth and what will happen when she does find out? But more then that Bun has basically stopped herself from having feelings. So her bumping into Busker Boy could possibly be a good thing.

I was instantly drawn in because I was curious how Bun would survive on her own because she has lived a very sheltered life with hardly any contact with the outside world. She was pulled from school by her mother with the promise of homeschooling and that never happened so everything Bun knows comes from the books she reads and old movies her mother brings home from her shopping trips.

I have to say that I didn’t like Bun’s mother at all because I can’t understand how a mother can call her child all kinds of names and then tells her to leave? Then on top of that she doesn’t even try and find her once she is gone. Can a mother truly not love her child enough?