When I started reading Heather O’Neill’s The Girl Who Was Saturday Night over Christmas, I was initially turned off. These were not people I could relate to, nor look up to. Although I grew up partly in Montreal, the areas frequented by these characters were areas I’ve done little more than drive through. My neighbours weren’t drug addicts and prostitutes, and my neighbourhood didn’t feature pay-by-the-hour hotels.
Somehow, though, the plights of the characters grew on me. So did O’Neill’s to-the-point writing and abundant and original use of similes and metaphors.
So when I found a well-read copy of O’Neill’s debut novel at the library, I grabbed it. And, as its Canada Reads winner status attests, Lullabies for Little Criminals didn’t disappoint. Written in the same vein as Girl, it took me into the underbelly of Montreal, seen through the eyes of an abused and frequently abandoned pre-teen. Although I couldn’t condone the majority of the girl’s choices, nor understand many of her odd and unpleasant preferences, I could definitely cheer her on.
Being thoroughly hooked on O’Neill’s work, I have now ordered her first short story collection, Daydreams of Angels, looking forward to the seedy situations she will lead me into next.