Patrick Cantwell is a good kid, however misguided. He's a seven-year-old with a conscience, growing up in the 1960s in Webster Groves, a middle-class suburb of Saint Louis. The nuns at Mary Queen of our Hearts parochial school have done a good work in Patrick - he feels guilty about playing on the train tracks (and lying about it afterward), sneaking orange soda during lent, throwing tomatoes at buses and failing to sell enough raffle tickets for church. Swept up in a quest to help his brother get a drum set, Patrick's level of mischief escalates until he gets caught up in a robbery at the neighborhood convenience store. Amid his antics, Patrick must deal with a secret crush on schoolmate Ebby Hamilton, the impending prospect of his first confession, his 39 year-old mother being pregnant again and how pretty, young Aunt Jenny, who is "almost" a nun, is having second thoughts about her choice of vocation.
Kevin Killeen's novel breathes life and nostalgia into a bygone era. You can almost smell the pomade, see the paperback James Bond novels, S&H Greenstamps, Frank Sinatra 45 records, the family's Ford Falcon and hear the cheers for The Beatles. The story follows young Patrick's life over the course of a few months, from Easter until Christmas. The book is filled with a balanced blend of humor and poignancy, structured in short chapters that are richly woven with period details and a pitch-perfect re-creation of the Roman Catholic Church of the 1960s (the rituals, tenets and mindsets therein) and how morality and faith were once the cornerstones of American family life.
Never Hug a Nun by Kevin Killeen
Blank Slate Press, $14.99, Trade Paper, 97809850071, 182 pp
Publication Date: December 8, 2012
Note: This book was provided for review by TLC Book Tours