Inspired by Canada Reads 2016, I reviewed past Canada Reads winners and chose Lullabies for Little Criminals (2007 Canada Reads winner) which had also been recommended by a friend. Still feeling under the weather, I spent most of the day reading the novel by Montreal native Heather O’Neill. The story-line is like a train wreck, you can’t quite look away or put it down yet it is full of sadness and despair.
The story is told by Baby, who is 12 to 13 years old for most of the book. She is being “raised” by a father who is a heroin addict and unable to care for her the way a young girl should be looked after. They move from one seedy apartment to another, he rarely has a job and Baby spends time in foster care and juvenile detention. She is a bright student but has no guidance or adults to help steer in a positive direction.
Baby ends up spending too much time alone, hangs with the wrong crowd yet there are glimmers of hope when she finds a nice boyfriend and has stellar marks at school. Her father does truly love her but becoming a parent at age 15, being an addict and having no guidance himself does not have the skills to be an effective parent.
As the mother of a 12 year old daughter, it is heartbreaking to think that this is the reality for some children. The author did a fabulous job detailing the perspective of a young girl in despair. This certainly was not a happy book but there is hope for Baby who is resilient and seeking positive love and attention. As I continue to read more CanLit, it is reinforced that we have a wealth of storytellers that should be appreciated!!