Pemberton author, Katherine Fawcett, knows whimsy and what it takes to write an award-winning short story, so when she recommends Heather O’Neill’s collection of fables and fabulous tales, for grown-ups,I listen. Fawcett is our guest contributor today, with her #WellnessReads2015 recommendation. For the bookshelf so far, click here. To nominate a book, email us at TheWellnessAlmanac@gmail.com, or get a friend to dob you in as an avid reader and we’ll come stalking until you relent. For rationale about the wellness benefits of reading stories and fiction, check out our June review by Danielle Saul.
Heather O’Neill’s new collection of short stories Daydreams of Angels, is a collection of 20 magical, dream-like tales that journey through history, war, fables, fairy-tales and bible stories. The Montreal author’s first book, Lullabies for Little Criminals, won CBC’s Canada Reads competition in 2007. Her second, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, was shortlisted for the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
In each of the stories in Daydreams, the author manages to weave whimsy into wisdom and the ridiculous into the sublime, often through the voice of an innocent but wise young narrator. Angels, teddy bears, historical figures, dolls, religious characters, soldiers, orphans and figments of the imagination are given real voices and common struggles; the result is an odd but irresistible blend of fantasy and day-to-day reality.
One of my favorite stories is “The Gospel According to Mary M,” which features Jesus as a Grade 6 student who becomes popular at school when the contents of his juice box is changed into wine.
Another tells of a group of scientists who try to clone another generation of the Russian ballet dancer Nureyev, and their small Quebec town of Pas-Grand-Chose is over-run by the tiny Russian human replicas.
In “Where Babies Come From,” the grandmother explains how infants wash up on the beach, their little bottoms poking out of the sand, so their mothers can rush in to claim them.
Some of the stories are tragic (“The Saddest Chorus Girl in the World” and “The Man Without a Heart,”) but even these are injected with beauty, hope and humour.
Normally, I dislike the phrase ‘summer read.’ I understand the need to seasonally classify things when it comes to clothing, footwear, food and sports, but I don’t really get it when people refer to books by the season they’d be great for. That said, it’s summer now, and you should read this book now.
Half way through Heather O’Neill’s first collection of short stories, you wonder: how much more whimsy can a grown up reader take? Quite a lot, as it turns out. O’Neill is a wondrous writer.
Put it on your shelf?
What else is on your list? Go on. Share. We love talkin’ books.