I was raised zero-parent, says hormone-addled seventeen year-old Junebug Host, what the newspapers call it when your mother is in prison and the father was just a sperm.
Junebug has been visiting her mother in Ellisville Reformatory for Women ever since she was five years-old, when beauty queen Theresa Host calmly stepped out of their trailer with an axe and inexplicably bludgeoned a neighbor to death. But during the summer of Junebugs high school graduationthe summer of her first wildly passionate affair, with a snake-smooth greaser many years her seniorTheresa reels in her wild child, and shatters her world, by suddenly announcing the motive she had kept to herself since the day of the murder.
Set in the outsized landscape of far western Nebraska, a nebulous region little known in contemporary fiction, and peopled by characters whose extreme individuality is exceeded only by their eccentricity, Junebug is a novel with the intensity of the mother/daughter bond itself, with all its wildness, tragedy, and depth.
Acting out her own personal psychodrama in a small Nebraska town, the 17-year-old heroine of Maureen McCoys Junebug jumps into life. . .with her own pop-rock fizzle of adolescence.
The New York Times Book Review
Junebug is told with huge helpings of irony and passion, by 17-year-old Junebug Angel Host, who has pretty much been raising herself since age 5, when her mother, the stunningly beautiful Tess, committed a notorious crime. This book, which some have compared to "White Oleander" and others to "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter," is a searching exploration of adolescent angst and anger, told with an almost overwhelming lyrical intensity.
"The similarities between this novel and Janet Fitch's acclaimed White Oleander are obvious, but ultimately superficial. Though Junie lives in somewhat the same circumstances as Fitch's Astrid, and is just as much a survivor, the mother-daughter relationship depicted by McCoy is less acrid and combatant. In the end, McCoy's work is both more subtle and more life-affirming...[and] in some ways evocative of Carson McCullers' in its ability to make intangible loneliness and isolation breathe and walk and speak."
The Ithaca Times
"Seventeen-year-old Junebug Host is blessed with "the most stable mother in America," at least by default. For more than two-thirds of Junebug's life, her mother, a literal ax-murderer, has been incarcerated in a Nebraska prison. After a stunning revelation about the crime, Junebug's idle fantasies about setting her mother free deepen to an obsession...Junebug's wrenching struggles to manage her pain are touching, and a concluding breath of optimism offers reward for readers."
"Strains every literary nerve and muscle...[a] significant story of a teenager who finally learns why her mother is in prison for murder."
"Junebug is a rare and special book, one of those mysterious and totally original inventions that summons attention because it is so unique. It is as American as the Great Plains, as poignant as Carson McCullers at her best, and imbued with the deeply affecting and poetical heart song of its lonely and quirky narrator. Maureen McCoy writes like an angel, full of passion, musical cadence, and offbeat curious insights into the human soul. This novel is a deeply touching prayer for all the wild and beautiful misfits on earth, including you and me.
, Author of The Milagro Beanfield War
The novel gives us a burning glimpse into the spirit that holds a mother and daughter together. Bursting with wild grief over her mother's incarceration, while awkwardly stepping into adulthood in a leather mini-skirt, 17 year-old Junebug Host can barely contain herself. In fits and starts, in thoughtfulness and mindlessness, in rage and peace, McCoy's June reminds us that even the darkest grief can transcend into a powerful infinite love.
Helena Maria Viramontes, Under the Feet of Jesus
||Maureen McCoy is the author of three previous novels set in the Midwest: Walking After Midnight, Summertime, and Divining Blood. Raised in Iowa, she now lives in Taos, New Mexico and Ithaca, New York, where she teaches in the English Department at Cornell University.
Photo: © Sheryl Sinkow
Reading Group Guide Questions for Junebug
TRIM: 6 x 9
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