Quill and Quire

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Pain & Wastings

by Carrie Mac

Carrie Mac’s story meets the guidelines and conventions of the Orca Soundings series with brisk efficiency. First-person narrator, present tense, colloquial language, limited vocabulary (at a 3.6 Reading Level), and the drastic problems of urban youth are all part of the package.

Ethan has been in and out of foster homes for years; now he’s living in a group home for teens with physical, social, and often legal problems. Injured by a police dog when he’s apprehended for a prank, Ethan is “sentenced” to work several shifts with the paramedics who treated him. A few nights in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, with its “drug dealers, hookers, junkies, crazies, bums, winos, street kids, johns, and pimps,” brings up disturbing images of the week he spent locked in an apartment with his murdered mother’s corpse when he was a small child. Working with a paramedic who used to know his mother helps him dredge through his memories and emerge less traumatized.

Mac’s experience as a paramedic gives her portrayal of their work an easy authority, and she sketches Ethan and his group home with a certain amount of precision and humour. The fluidity of the storytelling, as well as the dramatic circumstances of the story, are likely to attract Orca Soundings readers.