One of the best books I’ve read this year. De Vries has captured the essence of her sister Sarah’s adoption, her middle-class upbringing (a black child in a white family), her teenage years of drug dependence, and her final turn to prostitution to survive. Sarah was greatly loved by her family and friends, a bright, poetic soul who often gave solace to others on the streets. Her poetry and her journals are revealed in her sister Maggie’s honest heartache of a story; a story that thoughtfully explores the vanishing of Vancouver’s prostitutes from the Downtown Eastside and our ability to turn away from their stories with a shrug of our shoulders.
Maggie de Vries is a Vancouver writer, editor, and teacher. She is also sister to Sarah de Vries, one of the missing women whose DNA has been found on the Picton farm in Port Coquitlam. Sarah was adopted by the de Vries family at the age of eleven months. With African, Aboriginal Mexican and Causasian roots, Sarah stood out in her new family, all of whom shared Dutch heritage and colouring. Until she hit her early teens, Sarah''s life was typical: she enjoyed reading, she wrote letters, she liked to draw, she did well enough in school. However, at 14 she ran away for the first time, leading ultimately to a life in Vancouver''s tough Downtown East Side and funding a drug dependency by selling sex. When Sarah disappeared in April of 1998, Maggie became an advocate and activist for her and other missing women from the area, eventually helping convince Vancouver''s police and city council to offer a reward for information on the missing women. De Vries tells Sarah''s story as best she can reconstruct it, through letters, diary entries, interviews, and conversations with Sarah''s friends and acquaintances. Moving through the heartbreaking events marking Sarah''s life, disappearance and death, de Vries pulls no punches and shows herself, Sarah, and their family, warts and all. Particularly wrenching is the point, late in the book, at which Maggie and her mother attempt an honest explanation to Sarah''s children of how their mother''s body may have been disposed of, following questions from their friends and classmates... and Maggie''s chilling statement on the second-to-last page, [Sarah] is (I think) chopped up into little pieces in the dirt. An affecting, resonating book.
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