Marked women

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&#226;eoeThey look almost <I>pre</I>-abandoned,&#226;e notes the teenaged protagonist of Anne Stone&#226;e(TM)s stunning third novel, <I>Delible</I> as she looks at the missing posters of so-called runaways

MUCH HAS RIGHTLY BEEN made, in progressive circles, about the criminal obscenity of Official Vancouverâe(TM)s slow and uncaring response to the cases of myriad missing women in the city.

The fact is, dealing with the cases is an imperative that runs against the whole momentum of a society whose central demands of aboriginal, working-class or addicted women, as well as those in the sex trade, are invisibility and silence. For these women to go missing, then, is for the disappearance that mainstream society forces on them âe" the pushing to the margins, the erasure from public and social life âe" to be effected most extremely.

âeoeThey look almost pre-abandoned,âe notes the teenaged protagonist of Anne Stoneâe(TM)s stunning third novel, Delible, as she looks at the missing posters of âeoegirls like [my sisterâe¦] So-called runaways [âe¦] Taped to the walls of bus stations [âe¦]âe

If Vancouver, and countless cities like it, have consigned these women to vanishing and death, itâe(TM)s because the human condition has so often been defined to their exclusion.

Revolutionarily, Stoneâe(TM)s brilliant story of a missing teenager named Melissa Sprague (a story told through the eyes of her mother, grandmother and, mostly, her younger sister Melora) subverts and inverts this paradigm completely by making the missing themselves into the archetypes of our condition, exemplary of tragic human lives marked by constant Heraclitean change, impermanence and evanescence (hence the title, Delible âe" a condition that we are so afraid of that we donâe(TM)t have a word for it; only for its comfortingly concrete opposite, indelible).

If all of our lives are lost, transitory and ever-changing to the point where none of us has a grounding, permanent essence or centre, weâe(TM)ve constructed arcs and narratives built into biological aging and social conventions to mask the terror of this realization. But the missing personâe(TM)s story is, by definition, an interruption and negation of these conventions. Their disappearance throws the rest of our lives into sharp relief; in response to a friendâe(TM)s suggestion that she âeoepick up the pieces [and m]ove on,âe Melissaâe(TM)s mother insists, âeoeThere are no pieces. Thereâe(TM)s a gaping black hole. At dead centre. And itâe(TM)s sucking everything in.âe

Even if Stoneâe(TM)s new book has bold social and political implications âe" and it does, especially for us in her adoptive city, Vancouver, where she moved from Montreal âe" it is not primarily a political tract but rather an outstanding literary accomplishment. Her language is profound and honest; her allusions rich and subtle (the two sisters share a smoke, for instance, inside of a parade float done up like Sesame Streetâe(TM)s Snuffleupagus, the elephantine companion whom Big Bird could never convince his grown-up neighbours was real; when Melissa goes missing, Melora is unable to communicate to the police and other adults working on the case that her sister has not run away).

Stoneâe(TM)s themes of impermanence and disappearance are integrated seamlessly and hauntingly into every passage of the bookâe(TM)s three hundred pages, on multiple levels, with care and intelligence. The tragedy of her chosen subject matter offers the possibility of only the faintest hope, but itâe(TM)s here, found in Meloraâe(TM)s âeoelove of writingâe and an invisible growth âeoethat I could measure in books.âe

If literature is salvation, hereâe(TM)s to hoping that Stoneâe(TM)s work makes the indelible mark on Canadian letters that it deserves to.âe"Charles Demers

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