Heather O’Neill dazzles with a first novel of extraordinary prescience and power, a subtly understated yet searingly effective story of a young life on the streets—and the strength, wits, and luck necessary for survival.
At thirteen, Baby vacillates between childhood comforts and adult temptation: still young enough to drag her dolls around in a vinyl suitcase yet old enough to know more than she should about urban cruelties. Motherless, she lives with her father, Jules, who takes better care of his heroin habit than he does of his daughter. Baby’s gift is a genius for spinning stories and for cherishing the small crumbs of happiness that fall into her lap. But her blossoming beauty has captured the attention of a charismatic and dangerous local pimp who runs an army of sad, slavishly devoted girls—a volatile situation even the normally oblivious Jules cannot ignore. And when an escape disguised as betrayal threatens to crush Baby’s spirit, she will ultimately realize that the power of salvation rests in her hands alone.
I want to start by saying that although this book is about a teenage girl it may not be appropriate for all teenagers. It deals with mature subject matter and can be graphic in nature.
So, I read this book when it first came out in paperback and haven’t been able to get it out of my head ever since. I feel like everyone needs to read this book for the sheer pleasure you get in coming out of the book world to your own. This is one book world you don’t want to live in. The world is cold and harsh. Baby (yes, her real name), is alone and trying to fend for herself. This isn’t new to her though, she’s been doing it since she was 12. Dealing with awful situations, drugs, pimps .. you name it and this poor girl has faced it.
What I love about this book is that there is always that glimmer of hope, and no matter what Baby had been through, you could see it, or read it rather, in her eyes. The way O’Neill captured Baby’s spirit was breathtaking, she was naive and smart all at the same time and although the material being described was often brutal and heartless, you can’t help but see the beauty in the words O’Neill uses.
I won’t go over the plot in this review because I think the description given on the back of the book (also posted above) describes the book better than I would ever be able to. I did, however, feel the need to tell you all that 8 years later I still think of this book, it’s images still grace my memory sometimes when I least expect it.
Also, the fact that Heather O’Neill is Canadian makes me proud. I cannot wait to read her newest release ‘The Girl Who Was Saturday Night’, written about the same streets and lifestyle, I cannot help but think that it will move me in the same ways.