The Girl Who Was Saturday Night tells the bleak stories of twins, Nicholas and Nousckha, who had spent their childhood being paraded on television programs by their famous father, Etienne. They had grown up in the spotlight of his folksinging but without much supervision or guidance. They were well known by the French Canadian community.
The twins had been abandoned by their teenage mother. Their father was too busy to care for them and their elderly grandfather did the best that he could to care for the twins. The book began when the twins were 19 years old and Etienne was washed up yet pathetically tried to stay in the spotlight.
The twins were extremely close and co-dependent. Their family was followed by the media who benefited from their mistakes and family drama which was rampant. Even between drunken evenings, sexual encounters, crime and poor decisions the bonds of the siblings leave the reader with hope that the twins will survive their circumstances together. Like Lullabies for Little Criminals the twins managed day by day with the resilience and tenacity to manage their circumstances.
After meeting the soft-spoken Heather O’Neill last week, I am glad that she will be working on her own memoirs and am curious to learn more about her own resilience and childhood experiences. In the article Bringing up Baby which appeared in Quill and Quire, O’Neill shared that she was “abandoned by a mother who continues to live an itinerant life, and about being raised by an emotionally unpredictable father who these days would be described as “working poor.” I will be interested to see how her own childhood has framed and inspired these bleak stories which remain hopeful.
Overall, the book is compelling and the prose is smooth and engaging. The challenges of Nicholas and Nousckha are a stark departure from my last read, the heartwarming stories of Home from the Vinyl Cafe by the late Stuart McLean. It is important for readers to understand the challenges that some Canadian children face and see the “magic inside them” as O’Neill said last week!