Dead Girls

Corrina Hodgson

I finished Dead Girls (McClelland and Stewart) with a heavy feeling in my stomach. It’s not just that the stories are disturbing, it’s that I, the reader, have been made witness to this disturbance. Therein lies the genius of this, Nancy Lee’s first collection. The eight short stories, threaded together by the unfolding news of bodies found in a backyard, are particularly resonant in the context of recent news about the missing women in Vancouver. Lee’s protagonists watch and listen to the grisly news reports, some thinking more about the victims than others, while going about their daily lives. In about the middle of the book, in the title story, it dawns on us that we are doing the same thing. Like the characters watching the news, we play the part of passive observer, and Lee’s writing intensifies this experience. The language is clean and seamless, and Lee has a screenwriter’s gift for quickly creating mise-en-scène and realistic dialogue, which in turn create a documentary-like atmosphere. It’s as though we are being kept at arm’s length, being told, “You can watch from here, but no closer.” The tension between reader and text contributes to a growing dread until we reach the final story, “Sisters,” in which all is brought down to a personal, human level. By then the sense of loss and helplessness is all-consuming, but so is the conviction that someone has to do something, and that the reader is perhaps the person to do it. When art and social commentary are brought together as powerfully as they are here, the result is far more than a “good book.”

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Michael Hayward


Review of "Short Story Advent Calendar" by Hingston & Olsen Publishing.

Mazzy Sleep

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Playing against the fastest chess player in the world.