by Heather O’Neill
A short story collection is an interesting outlet for an author to experiment with her craft. Given that the sequestered narratives have so little time to show and tell, it gives an author ample leeway to branch out to different styles and dramas. Even if a tale sort of falls flat––and, many a short story collection has its share of duds––the author can move along to something completely different, fostering more opportunities to amaze and surprise. Then a short story collection like Daydreams of Angels comes along and not only does so much with these brief tales, but also contains nothing I would really call a dud.
O’Neill proves herself to be a careful author, painstakingly fleshing out characters to such a great extent that you’d have to be heartless not to empathize with them, even within our brief glimpses into their lives. But, don’t think that only the characters are given such love; the author fills her stories with numerous intriguing details that make the little worlds come alive. I absolutely love how specific she gets with difficult, almost impossible, descriptions: the sound of an angel playing his trumpet, or how it feels to still be in the womb. And, while Daydreams of Angels wanders through a huge array of themes––loneliness, corruption, redemption, perception, and love, to name a few I can think of offhand––some of the stories don’t bother to change anything, reminding us that, sometimes, stories just exist for the enjoyment of the telling.
So, I think I can very easily recommend Daydreams of Angels, with the skilful diversity of its tales. While not every story will prove to blow you away, a few of them may. (At least one made me cry, and that’s probably some indicator of O’Neill’s skill.)