Reviews of The Agony of Bun O'Keefe by Heather Smith

The Agony of Bun O'Keefe

by Heather Smith

The Agony of Bun O'Keefe by Heather Smith X
The Agony of Bun O'Keefe by Heather Smith
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2017, 224 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2019, 256 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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.

1

She yelled, "Go on! Get out!" So I did. It wasn't easy. The path to the door was filled in again. I tried to keep it clear. But it was like shoveling in a snowstorm. There was only so much I could pile up on either side before it started caving in again. Not that I left the house much.

At one point I had to turn sideways and suck in. I wondered how she did it. She was over three hundred pounds. As I inched forward I saw frozen smiles through a clear plastic bin. Barbie Dolls, $10 As Is.

I knew without looking there'd be some without limbs.

I tripped on a lamp and fell on a bike. She didn't even laugh. The only sound was the tick-tick-tick of the bike's spinning wheel. I watched till it slowed to a stop.

I took one last look at her before I disappeared behind a mountain of junk. She was nestled into a pile of garbage bags, a cup of tea balanced on her chest, and I wondered, how will she get up without me?

Boxes and bags lined the walls. As I squeezed down...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Heather Smith keeps Bun's journey of self-discovery grounded in the real world, steeped in the late 1980s, with references to President Reagan's Iran-Contra scandal, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and Duran Duran, to name a few. No large or sudden revelations rise from the pages of The Agony of Bun O'Keefe. Instead, this is a story of a make-shift family trying to get by in their daily lives, welcoming Bun into their fold, and helping her become acquainted with the ways of the world. The newness of every little thing she encounters forces us, the readers, to focus consciously on what we take for granted...continued

Full Review (490 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Smith's talent lies in deftly handling numerous heavy topics: suicide, sexual abuse, neglect, AIDS, homophobia, transphobia, and racism, without making them feel forced or gratuitous - they're facts of life. Bun O'Keefe will settle comfortably at home in readers' hearts.

School Library Journal
Teens will truly dive into Bun’s mind and her surroundings through her understanding of the world… A nuanced, well-done novel about tough topics that deserves a place in most collections.

CM: Canadian Review of Materials
Smith's strength is her attention to setting details and character development ... Recommended.

Quill & Quire (Canada)
Starred Review. There's an abundance of humour both subtle and overt, and a shattering of stereotypes and tropes ... This is a book that grabs readers by the heart and the head.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The National Film Board of Canada

The title of Heather Smith's novel, The Agony of Bun O'Keefe, is inspired by a 27-minute documentary called The Agony of Jimmy Quinlan [see full film below], which was produced by the National Film Board of Canada in 1978. The film chronicles the effort of Quinlan, one of 5,000 people living on the streets in Montreal, to get sober.

For Bun O'Keefe, the protagonist in Smith's novel, The Agony of Jimmy Quinlan provides fortification against a world she does not yet know. She has memorized the documentary script and even the various intonations of the narrator, and repeats bits in moments when she's not sure what to do or how to react – kind of like Jimmy Quinlan trying to face down the world and forge a path of ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Agony of Bun O'Keefe, try these:

  • Wonderful Feels Like This jacket

    Wonderful Feels Like This

    by Sara Lovestam

    Published 2018

    About this book

    The Elegance of the Hedgehog meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower in this novel celebrating being a little bit odd, finding your people, and the power of music to connect us.

  • Merrow jacket

    Merrow

    by Ananda Braxton-Smith

    Published 2016

    About this book

    In this breathless and beautifully crafted tale, twelve-year-old Neen Marrey must separate town gossip from town lore to learn the truth about her mother - and herself.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    by Sidik Fofana
    'Everybody got a story, everybody got a tale / Question is: Is it despair or prevail?' ...
  • Book Jacket: Fire Season
    Fire Season
    by Leyna Krow
    Fire Season is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that touches upon multiple genres and themes. It ...
  • Book Jacket: The Story of Russia
    The Story of Russia
    by Orlando Figes
    In The Story of Russia, British historian and writer Orlando Figes shares panoramic and ...
  • Book Jacket: Moth
    Moth
    by Melody Razak
    On August 15, 1947, India gained independence from the United Kingdom, and on that same day the ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Book Club Giveaway!
Win A Minor Chorus

A Minor Chorus

A debut novel from a rising literary star that brings the modern queer and Indigenous experience into sharp relief.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Y Can't G H A

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.