In anticipation of our special event with award-winning author Heather O'Neill tomorrow at Performance Works, we're thrilled to share this exclusive excerpt of her new novel, The Lonely Hearts Hotel. According to the Globe & Mail, this thrilling and magical novel set in early 20th century Montreal just proves that O'Neill is "getting better and better."
Heather O'Neill in conversation with Hal Wake
Wednesday, February 15
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From The Lonely Hearts Hotel
by Heather O'Neill
HarperCollins Canada, 2017.
Their favorite of Rose’s performances by far were those when her imaginary friend, a bear, came to visit. And he would always be demand- ing Rose’s hand in marriage. All the girls scooted down one chair at the dining table because they wanted to leave a space for her imaginary friend to sit. In the dormitory at night, Rose would sit on the edge of her bed, looking straight ahead, spurning the affections of the beast.
“You must be completely out of your mind. Why would I marry a bear?” She paused to listen to what the bear was saying. “Well, for one thing, how in the world could I trust you around any of my friends? I’m quite sure that I would turn my head for just a minute and when I turned it back I’d find that you had swallowed them whole.”
The little girls exploded with mirth. Their laughter was like a pheas- ant that burst startled from a thicket.
“And you are always eating all the honey. That just isn’t right! You know that I like to have a spoonful of it in my tea, and every time I go to pick up the jar, I see that it is completely empty.”
They laughed again at this big bear that didn’t have the sense to know when enough was enough.
“Also, you are a bum. You sleep for the whole winter. I know it’s cold out, but that doesn’t mean you can just sleep right through it. How will the bills get paid? Do you think I want to spend the whole winter listen- ing to you snore?
“No, I will not kiss you. No, no, no. Get your huge paws off me.”
The little girls clapped their hands and screamed in delight. They forgot themselves, pulling their dresses up to their chins and shoving their fists in their mouths. One girl laughed so hard that she peed in her underpants a little.
While Pierrot was in the boys’ dormitory entertaining the boys, Rose was putting on a show for all the girls. Because of the separation of the boys’ and girls’ wings, they were never really a part of each other’s imag- inative worlds.