August 30, 2011

The Beggar's Garden - Michael Christie

I picked up this book recently based on a raving review in the local paper and let me just say that I was not disappointed.

This is a collection of loosely linked short stories set in and around Vancouver's east side. Each one is almost like a little vignette or a mini portrait of a character, each with his or her own story to tell and view on life. There are a few interactions and connections between the characters in the different stories, but no more than you would expect from a group of people living in the same neighbourhood. There is no cute-sy wrap up or tie up where all of the characters come together in a happy campfire sing-along in the end. (oops - do I sound too cynical there?)

What I really liked about these stories was the uniqueness of each one. All of the characters were memorable, and each one had a unique voice, some more likable than others, some more memorable than others, but each one with a story to tell. From the woman running a thrift shop to a heroin junkie getting high, to a grandfather trying to track down his grandson who is living on the streets, to a young couple who meet at the dog park then come together over their dogs' friendship, to a banker who "befriends" a beggar as his marriage is falling apart, to a man in a psychiatric hospital who descends into more and more delusions as he stops his anti-psychotic meds; each character seemed so real to me as I was reading the stories.

I can't pin down a story as being my favourite or least favourite, but I can say that this is one of the best collections of short stories that I have read in a long time. I started each story with anticipation to find out who would be introduced, and what story he or she would have to tell.

OK - have I raved enough about this book yet? I really hope to see it on some of the award lists this fall!

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