For as long as Jack “June” O’Donnell has been alive, her parents have had only one rule: stay away from the Angert family. But when June collides—quite literally—with Saul Angert, sparks fly, and everything June has known is thrown into chaos.
Who exactly is this gruff, sarcastic, but seemingly harmless boy who has returned to their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, after three mysterious years away? And why has June—an O’Donnell to her core—never questioned her late father’s deep hatred of the Angert family? After all, the O’Donnells and the Angerts may have mythic legacies, but for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them.
As Saul and June’s connection grows deeper, they find that the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers seem to be conspiring to reveal the truth about the harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations. Now June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored, and she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all the O’Donnells before her—to let go.
My first three thoughts about this book were, in order: 1) Is this a Romeo & Juliet remake? 2) Oh man, good thing I have a bag of cherries in my fridge. 3) MEIJER IS THE BEST STORE EVER.
To be fair, I did just move back to Indy and I have been away from Meijer for a very long time. Imagine if you took Wal-mart’s grocery, upped the quality of everything, and then combined it with everything you love about Target. That’s Meijer. And because this book is set in Michigan, home of Meijer, it gets a shout out, and I was just really excited.
Anyway. The book. Oh Dang!
It does have a bit of a R&J flair, in that two families have a long standing flair in a small town, and everyone knows about it–and the two progeny of those families fall in love. But it’s not a total Shakespearean redo. Instead, June (aka Jack aka Junior) and Saul try to follow memories back and back through four generations to break the curse that holds them both together and apart.
This book is NOT fast. I was monumentally bored by the first 50-75 pages. I didn’t get why it was so popular at first. It took until about halfway through before I suddenly “got” the enormity of Henry’s metaphors. When I did, I nearly started the book over again (except I didn’t, because…the book is still very slow moving and I’m an impatient reader). I’m not going to spoil too much for you, but this book is dark dark dark. There are intense themes of grief and mental illness, abuse and domestic violence woven into this story of magical realism. Once you realize exactly what is happening, you realize just how incredibly beautiful and intricate Henry’s writing is.
I was a little annoyed with the writing teacher. Among all the depth of the rest of the plot, that just seemed so insignificant and juvenile. I think it distracted from the importance of what was happening elsewhere–though maybe that was the point, as June herself was also distracted.
Even though A Million Junes got off to a slow start for me, once I connected to the story, I couldn’t put it down. I wouldn’t recommend this one for a read-a-thon, as you’ll definitely want to take your time with it, but maybe keep it for a go-no-where weekend with a good cup of tea and a big bag of Michigan cherries.
I won a copy of this book in a Twitter contest from Penguin Books. This post contains affiliate links.