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Where the heart is

Heather Smith’s brilliant sophomore effort is the perfect balance of devastating and hopeful BY DORY CERNY


The Agony of Bun O’Keefe

Heather Smith Penguin Teen Canada, Ages 12+

WHEN AN author creates a character who is naive for their age, who has been sheltered from the world at large, and is unfamiliar with common idioms or pop-culture references, there’s a risk that character will become caricature. Heather Smith adroitly avoids this pitfall with the eponymous protagonist of her stellar second novel.

Bun O’Keefe has lived most of her life shuttered away in a desolate country house in Newfoundland with her hoarder mother. Bun hasn’t gone to school since her dad left when she was six, and her mom is a hugely flawed person – obese; obsessive in a quest for “treasure” that results in mountains of garbage and discarded items taking over their home; negligent to the point that Bun is left malnourished and filthy; and so disinterested in her child that when she tells Bun to get out one day, the 14-year-old assumes she really means it and actually leaves.

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