By Sarah Hayes
June, the main protagonist of “Junebug”, has not had an easy life. Her childhood has been filled with numerous moments of abuse, psychological and sexual, from the very people June expected to protect and love her. Her view of men has been changed to people who only want to harm and use her. In the close-knit rural town where June grows up, there’s no hope for anyone to rise above their station and everyone in town is all too glad to look the other way as person after person hurt young June.
The book “Junebug”, however, is not just a tale of unending misery for a little girl caught between her abusive father and her equally abusive male relatives. Through the introduction of elements such as the other world that June escapes to during her abuse and her spiritual guardian Tigua the panther, June’s story turns into one of unyielding hope in the face of misery. Through her spiritual journey, June becomes a stronger person, constantly refusing to become a victim of her circumstances.
The narrative of “Junebug” often moves back between June’s childhood and her present adulthood, in which a grown June is starting to put the pieces of her traumatized memory back together with the assistance of her husband. Sometimes, the shifts in time are very obvious; other times, they aren’t so easily marked and it takes a second to realize the story has shifted from past to present and back again. Despite the initial clunkiness of its usage, it becomes a useful device in showing how the scared younger June evolves into the older, more confident June.
Although the book would benefit from a copyeditor, the writing style of “Junebug” is immense in its emotional strength, drawing the reader deeper and deeper into the life of June and her family. The most startling fact about “Junebug”, however, is not in the pages of the book itself, but lies on the back cover’s blurb: it’s all a true story, based on the real life experiences of the author herself. It’s one of those books where you keep flipping to the back cover to remind yourself that the main character actually lives to see tomorrow and write the very book you are holding in your hands.
“Junebug” contains multiple scenes explicitly describing sexual and physical abuse of young children. Reader discretion is advised.