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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Killeen Provides an Entertaining Look at the 1960s Experience of Catholic Schooling
In Never Hug a Nun, Kevin Killeen tells of the travails of Patrick Cantwell as he ends first grade and begins second grade at Mary Queen of Our Hearts Catholic school in the suburbs of St. Louis, MO in 1966. Rather than a traditional novel with a clear plot trajectory, Killeen's work reads like a series of vignettes, comic and touching all at the same time. In this way,...
Published on December 3, 2012 by Drennan

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
It was not what I expected from Kevin Killeen so was disappointed with the story line..Would not recommend this book
Published 21 months ago by Brady D. Jackson


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Killeen Provides an Entertaining Look at the 1960s Experience of Catholic Schooling, December 3, 2012
This review is from: Never Hug a Nun (Paperback)
In Never Hug a Nun, Kevin Killeen tells of the travails of Patrick Cantwell as he ends first grade and begins second grade at Mary Queen of Our Hearts Catholic school in the suburbs of St. Louis, MO in 1966. Rather than a traditional novel with a clear plot trajectory, Killeen's work reads like a series of vignettes, comic and touching all at the same time. In this way, Killeen's story feels like memoir, although it is a novel.

Of particular note is Killeen's writing style. The voice of Patrick feels authentic, as though we really are getting a 7-year-old boy's perspective on things. But it is the level of precise detail that Killeen uses that makes this work particularly engaging.

Although the novel is not made up of a tightly structured plot, the short chapters are connected, and the "girl" referenced in the opening provides one of several recurring characters and events that work to unite Killeen's short chapters. These short chapters, vignettes really, serve to mirror the consciousness of the child. And this, combined, with Killeen's detailed descriptions make the work enjoyable.

Killeen touches upon many themes including the specific challenges connected to Catholic schooling, family relationships, peer and boy/girl relationships, and the culture of Middle America in the 1960s. In this way, Killeen manages something more than simply a comic novel. For example as readers, we are touched by the discussions of the sacrifices that a woman must make to become a nun and the anxieties associated with such a lifestyle. We can also gain a look inside the consciousness and thought process of Patrick who is, in many ways, a typical middle-class boy, facing challenges that many boys would face, challenges related to negotiating peer relationships and growing up in a world where much is forbidden by well-intentioned parents.

I found this novel to be particularly engaging and entertaining for the first 100 pages or so. After that, it began to feel a bit tedious, at least to this reader. And yet, I am struck by Killeen's ability to write in a way that feels authentic, specific, and yet somehow universal all at the same time.

NOTe: This review originally posted at my book review web site, Speaking of Books. Please visit me there!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Young Patrick will grow up to be in a Jonathan Tropper novel, December 12, 2012
This review is from: Never Hug a Nun (Paperback)
Maybe it's because my mother-in-law gave my younger son a similar coat with lollipops taped on them to bring to preschool on his birthday that I can't resist this cover. And that grin; this may be one of the most perfect book covers ever.

Killeen wrote Never Hug a Nun, a comic novel set in a St. Louis suburb in 1966 in the voice of eight-year-old Patrick Cantwell. Patrick is in the second grade at Mary, Queen of Our Hearts School and has a ten-year-old brother John (who wants to be a Beatle and start a band) and younger brother Teddy (who likes sports and hates green beans). Mom loves to listen to big band music while she irons and Dad works downtown, a goal for which all of the nuns encourage the boys to strive.

Patrick has a crush on golden haired Ebby, and he is consumed with trying to be near her. Patrick and John have a friend Kurt who is "a bad influence" on the Cantwell boys. Kurt has a secret fort near the railroad tracks and he has ideas about stealing money to buy a drum set so they can start a band, like the Beatles. As a mother of two grown sons, I can tell you that Kurt is the boy we all pray our kids will not hang around.

This novel brought back many memories for me; the scene where Patrick's mom glues Green Stamps into books immediately put me back in my childhood kitchen where my mom would do the same thing, hoping to have enough to get a toaster or a lamp. I could almost smell the Green Stamp glue as I read.

I too went to Catholic school, and know well many of the nuns and monsignors from Patrick's school. I smiled at the scene where the nun washed the blackboard with the sponge; it was an honor to be asked to wash the blackboard at my school. And the constant reminders by the monsignor to get out there and sell those raffle tickets for the car? Yep, been there many times.

I like the well-drawn adult characters in this novel. Grandpa loves his grandkids and takes them to a Beatles concert, even though he knows nothing about the Beatles. Oh yeah, and he accidentally gets a little stoned and arrested, but whose Grandpa hasn't done that?

Aunt Jenny is studying to be a nun, with some reservations. She has a sweet relationship with Patrick and I was glad to see that she returns for a few scenes at the end of the book. I think she warrants her own story, and would like to see her in her own book.

Mom and Dad are interesting too. Dad hates dragging himself "downtown" everyday to work, but he loves his family and that is what a good dad does. I love that he tells his sons that they can tell him anything, and he proves that later in the story. Mom adores her husband and sons, but would like to add a daughter to their family. She desires to be a good Catholic family.

As the only female in our family, I find books written from the male point of view fascinating. I always learn something. But I did not need to learn what goes on in the boys' bathroom at school; that scene just had me shaking my head- what is up with boys? And many is the time I wanted to say to Patrick- NO! Stop and think for a second, son.

Patrick will probably grow up to be a protagonist in a Jonathan Tropper or Jess Walter book; fans of This Is Where I Leave You and The Financial Lives of Poets are the perfect audience for this book. Kileen bills Never Hug a Nun as a comic novel, but it has a lot of heart too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Immersed in a 7 Year Old's Life in St. Louis, May 12, 2013
By 
Janet (Tacoma, WA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Never Hug a Nun (Kindle Edition)
I received this book from NetGalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I fell in love with Patrick Cantwell, the 7 year old main character within the first two chapters. The book takes us through two school years and summers in the suburbs of St. Louis in the 1960's - Patrick is the middle of three boys in a Catholic household, his mother bakes Tollhouse cookies and save S&H Green Stamps, his Father wants to raise good children (tough to do with 3 boys!) and put in an honest day's work.
I was not familiar with the author, Kevin Killeen, when I chose this book, but I am inclined to watch for any of his other writings. Never Hug a Nun read like a series of short stories, peopled by the kind of characters I remember growing up around. Patrick's older brother is obsessed with the Beatles, Vatican II and the changes in the Catholic Church are spotlit, Nuns are shedding their habits, times are changing....and Patrick has a unique take on it all; he's at times wise beyond his years, and then again a typical 7 year old boy. Kevin has nailed Patrick's "voice", and I would know; I was a First Grade Teacher.
This might make an interesting book club selection - if your book club does not shy away from religious discussions. The depiction of the family at the core of the book is strong. The pop culture references are spot on - and it seems that the suburbs of St. Louis compare easily to the suburbs of other mid-western cities.
I gave the book a 4 star rating because it held my interest, evoked an emotional response, and because of the ease with which Kevin Killeen was able to immerse me in the life of a 7 year old! i would actually be interested in reading more about Patrick's life.
*I received my copy from NetGalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweetly Funny Memoir, February 18, 2013
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This review is from: Never Hug a Nun (Kindle Edition)
May resonate better with people familiar with the setting, but Killeen is an amusing writer and captures the time period well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Webster Groves nostalgia for everyone, January 20, 2013
This review is from: Never Hug a Nun (Paperback)
I was delighted with this sweetly amusing, memoir-like book set in 1960s Webster Groves, a suburb of St. Louis. Good Catholic boy Patrick has a sweet stay-home mother, a briefcase-toting father trying to make ends meet, a doting nana and a fun granddad. He has an older brother trying to channel John Lennon and a young aunt struggling with her decision to be a nun. And, he's preoccupied with "the new thing," his first crush. When he hesitantly falls in with Kurt Logan, "Peck's bad boy," he soon finds it hard to resist the temptation to sin.

The book is told in 3rd person but with an omniscent (all-knowing) narrator. This often felt odd to me, switching from inside one character to another, but I did enjoy getting to know each of the characters better that way - they are well-rounded and likeable. Well, long-haired, wild Kurt is a definite troublemaker, but we get a glimpse of his rough, broken-home life. I was more than a little anxious reading about Patrick and his friends' antics around the train tracks and dismayed by some of Patrick's behavior, but the story felt very real. Here is a proper, God-fearing little boy learning about life, love and human nature. There's a lot of place-name dropping and some of it felt forced, but overall Kevin Kileen tells an endearing story with a bite of bitter near the end and lot of humor throughout. (Note: I am not from Webster Groves, and I am not Catholic)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Killeen delivers a nostalgic romp back to a simpler time, January 1, 2013
By 
novelist (St. Louis, MO) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Never Hug a Nun (Paperback)
Never Hug a Nun provided a big Deja Vu for me, also having been raised in a Catholic school environment and taught by nuns in grade school and later by Jesuits. Patrick Cantwell is likable and human and funny, struggling as a young boy with the challenges of growing up, peer pressure, the opposite sex. He deftly mixes humor with knowledge of the human condition and weaves a rollicking, enjoyable book for anyone, not just St. Louisans or people in the Midwest. The point of view changes are many, but easy to follow. I look forward to Mr. Killeen's next effort.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old Ground Nicely (and Sometimes Newly) Covered, December 27, 2012
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This review is from: Never Hug a Nun (Kindle Edition)
While the Catholic school kid experience of days of yore has been visited many times before, Killeen does a nice job of revisiting it. He is very skilled at capturing the memories, thoughts, fears, urges and minor absurdities of childhood in case they have become a little dull-edged and fuzzy. He also tries with some success to bring a new larger dimension to this genre, exploring what was really under the surface of some of this Catholic kid culture from days gone by.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a delightful comic read, July 12, 2014
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This review is from: Never Hug a Nun (Kindle Edition)
This author has captured the voice of a 7 year boy so accurately. As the mother of three boys, I heard echoes of their early grade school years. And the descriptions of '60's Catholic family life was spot on, told with tongue in cheek but with much love. Can't wait to read the sequel!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Details, details, details..., July 10, 2014
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This review is from: Never Hug a Nun (Paperback)
This is a delightful little book, the story of every boy who was ever Patrick’s age…only the details are different. And it’s the details that make it special. Killeen’s writing is made golden by little descriptive phrases that surprised and delighted me as I read. (describing his grandfather entering a department store): “…he entered the revolving doors and revolved. He revolved back to 1925.” (A Catholic magazine): “An important source of religious news and ads for honest tree trimmers.” (describing a priest): “…his hands gentle like they had never reattached a greasy bicycle chain on a hot day.” See? I reached a point where I was reading with a pen in my hand, just to underline these phrases. Really delicious writing.

They say men don’t read books. But any men who once were boys—anywhere at any time--should read this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I'm a local, and I enjoyed it, February 12, 2014
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This review is from: Never Hug a Nun (Kindle Edition)
I grew up in the suburb of St. Louis in which this book is set, albeit in the 1980s/90s whereas the book is set in the 60s. So, I was already intimately familiar with the settings - I know the church, the bank, the store, etc. I used to put pennies on the same train tracks that are mentioned in the story. I enjoyed that aspect of Jonathan Franzen's "The 27th City", and then bought "Never Hug a Nun" for the same reason.
But, it's a good story, and I'm sure I would have enjoyed it without that connection as well. It kind of reminds me of the TV show "The Wonder Years".
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Never Hug a Nun
Never Hug a Nun by Kevin Killeen (Paperback - December 1, 2012)
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