cover image Juno Loves Legs

Juno Loves Legs

Karl Geary. Catapult, $27 (304 p) ISBN 978-1-64622-113-4

Geary’s heartbreaking latest (after Montpelier Parade) follows a pair of childhood friends as they age out of a hardscrabble Irish housing estate. Violence and religion define the constrained lives of Juno and her friend, Seán (nicknamed Legs), in the 1980s. They unite against abuse from nuns, priests, and playmates at their primary school where, as Juno narrates, “all the meanness in the world begins with a kind voice.” After they act out by dumping cement down toilets, a subsequent act of vengeance on an abusive priest at their school sends Legs to juvenile detention until he’s 18. Then, following a devastating loss in Juno’s family, she drops out of secondary school and lives rough in Dublin. Her reunion with a sickly Legs after he’s released is bittersweet, and he confesses the truth behind the incident that sent him to detention. Geary often finds poetry in Juno’s plainspoken narration, whether in lucid reflections on the brutality at the school or in Juno’s openhearted wonder at Dublin, where she discovers “the world was another, a vast other.” The blistering dialogue, too, captures the characters’ hard-won wisdom (“see everything, believe nothing, and definitely, don’t ever lend money,” a thrift store proprietor tells Juno). This is one to savor. (Apr.)