R is for Read

Books are like love, you read the first sentence or page and then you evaluate your compatibility and ability to relate. I stop reading the majority of books I pick up after the first three sentences, we just wouldn't get along. I wouldn't be committed enough I'd lack an emotional connection and would continue my search for the "right" one.

This summer I've been lucky to fall into a wonderful relationship with two books by two Canadian female writers: A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews and Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill. (search wiki if you like but be prepared for plot spoilers)

The books pair very nicely together much like mint tea and dark chocolate. They are both narrated by teenage girls(Toews' Nomi and O'Neill's Baby) living alone with their Fathers during that loss of innocence stage of life where you start to notice that you and the adults around you are unhappy mainly due to repression by societal dramas (in Nomi's case religion, in Baby's poverty). There is a nice territorial juxtaposition where Nomi evolves in rural Manitoba and Baby in the city of Montreal, it complies with my idea that city girls grow up sexually faster then the country girls (unless they are unfortunately involved in incest), there is just more skin and sin in the city (though there seems to be plenty of soft-core sin in Nomi's Mennonite community).

Toew's writing in A Complicated Kindness is emotional yet contained, her Nomi is constantly questioning and analyzing her past but seems to live in the present moment without any pre-meditation.

O'Neill uses similes more than any author I've read and they become the most important aspect of Lullabies, no matter the how deep in shit Baby is she can instantly transcend into a imaginative state where everything is beautiful. This approach not only adds the most amazing quality to the character it highlights that of the Author as well.

My best friend Charity sent me her second copy of Lullabies for Little Criminals from Vancouver, our favorite past-time is book-talk so I wanted her opinion here as well:

Usually the books my father-in-law gives me sit on my shelf hopelessly waiting to be read (he seems to think I really like romance novels). When he gave me Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill I figured this one would suffer the same destiny as the others. I gave the soft cover my habitual once over, read the blurb, about the author, ran my fingers over the pages and gave the spine a good sniff (seriously, this is how I evaluate the readability of a book). Then I read the first sentence, which led flawlessly into the next and forty pages later I realized things were going to be different (my father-in-law is still sending me books I’ll never read, however).

Lullabies quickly became one of my favorite novels. This book was so compelling and so unrelentingly optimistic despite it being a dark and discomforting tale. Told through the eyes of Baby, a resilient 13 year old left to her own devices on the streets of Montreal, I immediately fell in love with Baby's sense of self-reliance, the deviants and misfits she collected along the way and the poignant and clever voice O'Neill created. Everything about this novel is wonderful.

I was lucky enough to meet O'Neill once at a book signing. My father-in-law used to work for a publishing company (hence the assortment of books) and he managed to get me an opportunity to talk with her . Unfortunately I was overwhelmed by her amazingness and managed only to mumble something about how much I loved the novel. She noticed my copy had the original CBC Reads emblem on the cover and I think she was impressed; everyone else had bought their copies at the signing.

Now that signed copy of Lullabies for Little Criminals, with it's coffee stains and marginalia, is one of my prized possessions.

p.s. Thanks Charity!
p.p.s. Charity is currently reading A Complicated Kindness

1 comment:

  1. oooh lullabies for little criminals is one of my favourites. i am now going to search for a complicated kindness. thanks natalie!