Juno Loves Legs by Karl Geary
Published by Catapult
Publication date: April 18, 2023
Genres: Book Clubs, Fiction, Coming-of-age, Cultural, Literary, Social Issues
With a personality as incendiary and out of control as her flaming red hair, Juno bursts onto the pages of Juno Loves Legs like a wildfire. She and Legs, her best friend, live in a housing estate in Dublin and in an abbreviated 300 pages the novel follows them from childhoods where even home isn’t safe to an adulthood that comes far too fast and too hard. And yet, through it all, Juno burns bright.
It’s the 1980s and Juno lives with her parents, goes to Catholic school, and is reviled and feared for her poverty and her temper. Legs is similarly outcast, but for different reasons. Too quiet to fight back and too pretty to be ignored he’s the target of both classmates and their teacher, Sister. After a confrontation with Sister and Father, the headmaster, over confirmation names—Legs having chosen Judas and Juno Mary Magdalene—the two band together, embracing their outsider status. Until a series of events pulls them apart, scrubbing them from their old lives. Six years later, Legs finds Juno and once again they provide each other with the hope and love they’ve not had from anyone else in their lives.
There are no massive plot twists hidden in Juno Loves Legs. It’s not the landscape author Karl Geary paints that took my breath away, but the brushstrokes. He wields words with a precision and honesty that reveals the intimacy found only in the rarest of friendships—that which sees the deepest other and doesn’t turn away.
Legs took a breath. I could see how he steeled himself not to be cross with me, not to fight the way some part of me knew only how to fight.
This tenderness is offset by a transgressive Irish humor delivered with the sarcasm and flippancy that often mask insecurity and fear. The combination of the two made these characters I wanted to sit with, listen to, help. It’s a wonder, reading prose like this. Not elegant or overwrought, but vibrating with life and the truth of life. Juno Loves Legs may be a somewhat familiar story, but it struck at the heart of me.
They were beautiful, beautiful children and I thought, surely we were beautiful children too – why didn’t anyone say? We should have been told of it, our beauty.
For more fiction about vibrant young girls who leap off the page, try Donal Ryan’s The Queen of Dirt Island or Miriam Toewes Fight Night.
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