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Throwaway Angels

by Nancy Richler

Throwaway Angels is the first novel from Vancouver writer Nancy Richler and it’s set in the parts of the city that aren’t covered in the travel books. The central character, Tova, observes the lives of runaway girls turned strippers, the homeless, and otherwise marginal people from the safe distance of the counter of the laundromat she manages. When a friend disappears, Tova is compelled to turn into a reluctant detective.

On the surface the mystery is about finding out what has happened to Gina, the missing friend, but this is a novel that doesn’t work itself out along the conventional lines of the mystery genre. For one thing, the thirty-something lesbian Tova is an unusual and unlikely heroine. And it quickly becomes apparent that the real focus is on the exploration of identity as she tries to determine what she actually knows about Gina, which turns out to be a lot less than she thought. Inevitably, she ends up asking a lot of questions about her own life.

In depicting the numbness with which Tova has chosen to conduct her life, Richler has undertaken a difficult task – that of making the uninteresting appear otherwise – and she doesn’t fully succeed. It’s hard for the reader to feel engaged with a narrator who is both clued out and not more fully fleshed out.

While at times the setting comes to life, particularly the damp, drizzling grey of the Vancouver winter, the dramatic elements of the plot are at odds with the way they are presented. This relatively slight novel takes on wife assault, child abuse, homelessness, and judicial corruption but the narrative simply can’t bear that much weight.


Reviewer: Maureen Phillips

Publisher: Press Gang


Price: $14.95

Page Count: 264 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 0-88974-062-3

Released: Oct.

Issue Date: 1996-10

Categories: Fiction: Novels