The Beggar’s Garden – Michael Christie

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“If someone tells you they love you for you, it means they will love you as long as you act like who they love – that is who they want to love. So that’s what I did. He said he liked cheerful, so I danced around his house to the radio, and made cheerful kinds of food like pies and triple-decker sandwiches. In the end, he told me I loved him too hard and that he didn’t love me anymore. This confirmed my suspicions that he was lying the whole time, so I won.”

“Hours passed and the ambulances grew more frequent. The injuries migrated steadily from those self-inflicted to those inflicted by others. The television programs, in turn, became more violent and I wondered if there was a connection.”

“She found herself approaching the corner of Hastings and Abbott streets, where the Woodward’s building stood. She had read in the paper it was to be torn down, finally, to build some new type of apartments for young people. Just as well, she thought; it was no use to anyone anymore, the whole city block standing empty, an eight story palace for pigeons and rats. And maybe that was all the neighborhood ever really needed, she thought, more young people.”

It took me a surprisingly long time to get through The Beggar’s Garden by Michael Christie. Normally I’m not a big fan of short stories, but this collection of nine all take place in Vancouver, and focus on the DTES, so I was curious to give it a read. I don’t normally like short stories because I don’t like getting to know a character and their situation, their hopes and their dreams and their fears, just to have them ripped away from me and exchanged with someone else as I’m beginning to develop a bond. However, having each character taken from you as you finally begin to grasp who they are, really makes sense in this book because I think that if these characters were real, their presence in your life would be just as brief. I’m really torn on whether or not I like this one. The characters are all very interesting and multifaceted, and the writing style is fresh and memorable, but something just didn’t click for me. I couldn’t tell you what. I have however found myself thinking back to these different stories over the week, and viewing the homeless people I see in downtown Vancouver differently than I did before. So, really I guess that means that this book is a piece of art — it’s making me reflect and grow and change my perceptions of things. It’s not always easy to hear these people’s stories, but they are written with an air of authenticity that is hard to ignore. “It was as if the country had been tipped up at one end and all the sorry bastards had slid west, stopping only when they reached the sea, perhaps because the sea didn’t want them either.”

If you’re from Vancouver, I would definitely check this one out. If not, I’m not sure you’ll find it as interesting, but it’s still worth a gander.

xo

OMPP

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