Sunday, July 19, 2015

Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill

A girl tries to grow up with no good influences

Thirteen year old Baby is being raised by her heroin addict father, Jules, age 28. After her birth, he fled his small town Quebec home to raise her in a series of flophouses in Montreal. Jules is a charming eccentric who loves his daughter in his own way. However, his own way is not sufficient to keep intelligent Baby out of trouble. After landing in various foster homes (which provide a certain stability, affection and relief), she is thrilled by the attentions of sexy Alfonse, the neighborhood pimp. Once Baby starts working for Alfonse, she begins a chaste friendship with Xavier, a weird fat kid in her junior high class. The situation comes to a head, although at the end, it seems like things are looking up for Baby.

Unfortunately, this book was somewhat at a disadvantage simply because I have recently been reading a string of really first class literature. This novel was enjoyable, however, the story took too long to set up and that long set up was repetitious. The same situation happens over and over – my dad is a junkie, a weird boy likes me. The story is episodic. First this thing happens, then that thing happens. There are some droll descriptions (and some great descriptions of snow and frost) but the only thing really compelling is the eccentric hapless father. So at times I felt I was treading water. However, things start picking up once Baby is consigned to reform school/jail. Even the prose gets more beautiful and the final third was definitely the best part of the book.

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