cover image Daydreams of Angels

Daydreams of Angels

Heather O’Neill. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-374-28042-0

In this collection of strange and whimsical stories, O’Neill (The Girl Who Was Saturday Night) explores love and family in present-day Canada through quirky yarns filled with talking animals, modern versions of biblical characters, and countless other curiosities. Many are framed as stories told to children by their grandparents and, as such, are filled with the magical feel of fairy tales, where all things are possible. In the title story, a cherub is sent to Montreal during World War II and falls in love with Yvette, a beautiful and vivacious girl whose father has just been shipped off to fight in Normandy. A grandfather tells his grandchildren about his romantic adventures dating a half-swan, a half-deer, and a monkey-girl while working on Moreau’s island in “The Isles of Dr. Moreau.” In “Bartok for Children,” a Canadian solider is rescued from death during WWII by a French toy maker. The toy maker makes him a new clockwork heart and loves him as if he were his own son, but the toy parts in his body create some unexpected problems. “The Dreamlife of Toasters” centers on an exceptional android in the year 2112, who has an accident that leaves her with the human ability to understand humor. These stories are told with liveliness and wonder, but they often lack depth and complexity. O’Neill is at her best in the longer stories and the ones more grounded in reality, where she has a chance to develop her characters and explore their darkness. (Oct.)