O’Neill clearly grew up without a mother-figure, a theme she returned to in her most recent book, and one she explores here. Devastating whiplash between the normal world of a twelve-year-old, being silly and imaginative, to the abnormal world of turning tricks and shooting heroin. I love the casualness of the narrator, not caring what she’s wearing, her hair always looking like she just got off a seesaw. Moving from furnished room to furnished room with her dad, feeling most at home in the seediest parts of Montreal, having her dad’s junkie friends come over and entertain her. Sitting on the stoop outside her dad’s dealer’s house with the marionette he gave her on her 12th birthday, dipping into the roller rink to slouch around with other kids, making them laugh with her antics. Ending up in a foster home, which heartbreakingly is the only place she can sleep and feel normal with its schedule, quiet, and flanked by other misfits. Staying with Felix and brother Johnny and mother for a few months while her dad does rehab, only he comes out angry and their connection is dropped. The yearning for attention and touch. Her ragtag group of weirdo friends, and sweet Xavier, someone her own age whose fragility and childishness appeals to her. Glamorizing the gutter-punk, interspersed with real bits of being a kid then transitioning to smoking discarded cigarette butts like a bum.
Sitting on the front stoop, asked why she was wearing her dad’s suit by some pals in the neighborhood:
“Because I died last night,”I said. “And they dressed me up in my fanciest suit and laid me down in a coffin. It’s such a nice day and you are all my good friends, so I decided to get my butt up out of the coffin, just like Jesus Christ, and come and chitchat with all my beautiful and soulful friends.”
O’Neill seems destined to be let down by editors with two slip-ups in this one.
p 320: His bags consisted of a red school satched overstuffed with clothes.
The other was a misplaced period where the second sentence was intended to be part of the first. Unfortunately can’t find my dog-ear to note page number.