lullabies for little criminals by heather o’neill (up to pg 130)

so, i say “up to pg 130” because i have no idea what page i started reading on today.

this is one of the books i found while randomly cruising the fiction section at B&N. meaning i didn’t know the author or anything about the book, i just saw it and liked it. the fact that there’s a big sticker on it that says it won some award in canada and has the CBC logo on it was a definite plus.

the story, which i’m going to say is a coming-of-age or growing up tale, takes place in and near Montreal. i know nothing of Montreal, except that i hate french canadiens for some totally unknown irrational reason. celine dion? patrick roy? *shrug* could be anything. however, the quebecois featured in o’neill’s book seem to be way more interesting than i ever expected. plus, no one has started speaking french in it yet, so, bonus! :)

Baby (yeah, i know) lives with her dad Jules, more or less on the street. he’s a heroin addict, or at least was (i just read the part where he recently completed a stint in rehab and seems to just be batshit crazy. or maybe on horse again, i don’t know yet. stay tuned!) and has tuberculosis. her mom died shortly after Baby was born, but like most things Jules has told her, i’m not even convinced that that is true.

they live this existence that is so interesting and enticing to me, even for all its pathetic random sadness. they don’t own much, move around a lot from junkie hotel apartment to junkie hotel apartment, and have no concept of reality as i know it. their clothes are mismatched and have no relevance to current weather/seasons, the only things Baby holds onto are her dolls (which are of course sad little things themselves), and never have any money at all.

maybe because my childhood was spent in a soul-deadening urban suburbia, this street life is still so magnetic for me. the way o’neill describes their daily existence is delightful, even the cockroaches:

Even the little cockroaches in the wall were clockwork. They were made with the most beautiful tiny bolts from a factory in Malaysia, with little buttons underneath to switch them on and off.

it’s such a perfectly childlike description, and this book is full of them. Baby, as narrator, feels so real and makes her outlandish and fully-fabricated life totally believable.

A lot has already happened, so this post is kind of hard for me to write. Jules is put in hospital for several months on account of the TB, so Baby goes to live at a foster home for a while. When he is released, he of course goes back on smack and is eventually arrested for public indecency (or as Baby puts it,

The cops stopped him for looking ludicrous. Making people uncomfortable is a crime, I guess.

and how!) but had heroin in his pocket and since according to Baby, no one in Montreal goes to jail, he is sentenced to rehab. at which point Baby goes to live with a neighbor, Mary. She visits her dad in rehab, where she realizes the close conspiratorial relationship she remembered and treasured is disintegrating. a fellow patient at the rehab center sits down with them and hijacks Baby’s visit, and Baby can barely deal with it. her disappointment and horror and disbelief are almost tactile. it’s such a 12-year-old way to feel. someone else is creeping into her territory, and it’s the only thing she’s ever been able to count on. i kind of think her heart broke right then. Still on the child side of adolescence though, her solution is to become a drug addict herself to get that close relationship with her dad back. now my heart broke a little.

After coming home from rehab, Baby & Jules’ relationship is totally changed. their broken down life is no fun anymore, and Baby finds herself alone when she thought she had someone. She starts going to a community center, where she eventually befriends Theo. she is starting to get closer to Theo, but it really seems like just a replacement of the very singular relationship with Jules. Theo is a “bad kid” and their closeness leads Baby to be on the outside again, but that seems to be her comfort zone anyway. Baby just admitted he is the only person she’s ever trusted. it’s sweet, misguided, truthful, and false all at the same time.

i am intrigued.

publisher’s info


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3 Responses to lullabies for little criminals by heather o’neill (up to pg 130)

  1. el_mirón says:

    Bienvenida a WordPress señora Siggy.

  2. James says:

    It is a bitter sweet story, and the whole ‘hating French Canadians’ is probably part of the being ‘American’ schtick. Don’t worry, you’ll grow and embrace the diversity this world offers. That or you’ll be a lifetime FOX viewer.
    Enjoy the Journey.

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