The Dark and Concealed Vancouver – Wendelyn Ramos

by capreviewroom

Dead Girls, written by Nancy Lee is a collection of eight independent short stories that all connect to one another through a serious current event that is haunting their city of Vancouver. The eight short stories: Associated Press, Sally, in Parts, Valentines, Dead Girls, East, Young Love, Rollie and Adele, and Sisters deal with topics that can be uncomfortable for some readers. Lee’s decision to incorporate prostitution, drugs, addiction, poverty, and death into her short stories definitely makes Dead Girls a book that stirs up controversy and interesting discussions.

 The setting for this collection primarily surrounds the downtown east side of Vancouver that highlights the dark and concealed poverty of the city. As a resident of Vancouver, you come to a realization of what is happening around you and what is usually not spoken of. Lee unquestionably chose to expose the truth about Vancouver’s downtown east side and not sugarcoat anything. An advantage I found as a reader and as a Vancouverite was the ability to visualize a majority of the setting in the short stories. For example, in “Sisters” the short story Grace is introduced to Harbour Centre, “ ‘You should go to Harbour Centre,’ he says, pointing up, up. ‘You’ll see it all from there.’”(282) From living in Vancouver, I the reader was able to visualize in my mind what the view Grace would be able to see and have a better understanding as to why it is a good place to see all of Downtown Vancouver.

Lee’s style of writing and point of views in each short story differs which reminds the reader that each story is independent and is not intended to be read as one entire novel divided into chapters. In “Associated Press” the short story is written in second person where as in “Young Love” the short story is in first person. A unique style of writing Lee uses is in her short story “Sally, in Parts.” Lee’s way of using Sally’s body parts to tell the story makes this short story from the eight really stand out. Lee’s variety in her collection gives the reader a fresh start when reading each short story.

The eight short stories share a commonality by the way the decisions the characters make shape their lives. Lee shows the honest truth of women getting steered into the wrong direction and the short stories show what can happen when temptation gets in your way and how it can take a toll on your life. With the different themes and life lessons in each short story, Lee is still able to have the serious current event linger throughout Dead Girls. With this hidden plot, the collections of short stories come together as a whole. The depiction of prostitution and murder plays a key role in bringing a sense of urgency and intensity into the already dramatic and engaging stories. Although some may agree that this book is primarily steered towards females, these intense and provocative stories will surely impact any reader.

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