Here are the two main reasons I love this book. #1. It so well written it evokes in me emotion, not many readers are capable of writing in such a way. I wont say it evokes emotion I LIKE - but it is evocative and I appreciate that. #2. At the same time as the writer paints a melancholy portrait of the life of Bo, she injects the hope of relationships. Orange learns to communicate, Bo makes REAL connections with people who care about him. The world is not ONLY a bleak place. Great story.
The book is about the life of Fourteen-year-old Bo, a boat person from Vietnam. Bo is living in a small house in Toronto with his mother, Thao, and his four-year-old sister. The home has been provided for them from the sponsors who paid to bring them from Vietnam. A religious group. His sister was born disfigured as a result of agent Orange. Her name means Orange Blossom and Bo calls her Orange. Bo's mom keeps his sister hidden away and it is Bo's responsibility to care for her when he is not in school.
Bo is a fighter, literally, and gets into fights on a daily basis. He is a talented fighter, talented enough to win, but he never does. He feels a connection to the boy he fights most often, realizing this is the person he has the most intimate contact with on a daily basis.
One day a carnival worker and bear trainer, Gerry, sees Bo in a streetfight, and recruits him for the bear wrestling circuit. Gerry gives Bo a bear cub to raise and train as his own.
Max, Gerry's boss, is fascinated by the boy and gets to know his mother - with the intent of using Orange in his side show to make money. In the process of trying to manipulate Thao, they fall in love. The church tells Thao she has to leave the house. Max takes Thao and Orange and leaves Bo behind. Bo knows he and his cub are alone and he sets out on his own. Living first in the park and then back with the circus Bo and his bear survive.