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This week’s pick: Daydreams of Angels by Heather O’Neill

Food, music and conversation to pair with this charming short-story collection.

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Selection

Daydreams of Angels by Heather O’Neill, $23.

In brief

From the distinctly youthful voice of Heather O’Neill comes her first short-story collection with 20 intricate portraits of the charming lives of bears, gypsies, children, grandparents and more. Each fairy tale opens like a music box, with an almost-naive sense of wonder and whimsical characters waiting inside. O’Neill writes about worlds of war, orphans, death and sex with the raw imagination of a child; from the confessions of worse-for-wear dolls waiting at a church sale to an introverted boy’s rapture in befriending a heroin addict. There’s just enough magic in each tale to make you wonder whether it were possible.

Her first book, Lullabies for Little Criminals, won the 2007 CBC’s Canada Reads competition and her second, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, was shortlisted for the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Themes

Fairy tales, innocence, surrealism, young love.

What to serve

Small-batch cookies for bite-sized stories, angel food cake and a boozy minted iced tea to jazz up a sweet drink.

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Playlist

La redécouverte  Yann Tiersen
Commes des enfants  Cœur de Pirate
Pieces for Children – Béla Bartók
Musicbox  Regina Spektor
Songs from Friday Afternoon, Op. 7: Cuckoo  Benjamin Britten
Swan Lake  Peter Tchaikovsky
Oblivion  Grimes

Opening questions

1. How does nature vs. nurture play into the Nureyev cloning experiment? Do you think it is possible to reproduce personality if you clone the same genetic material and stage the same environment for them? (Swan Lake for Beginners)
2. Did Lionel redeem for his past actions? Would you trust him with your child? (The Man Without a Heart)
3. What do you think death feels like? (Daydreams of Angels)

Bonus trivia

The author, Heather O’Neill, was the first in her family to go to university. At age 20 and during her final year at McGill University, she found out she was pregnant. It was during this time  as O’Neill grew with her daughter and found herself explaining everyday things  that she became a writer.