Thursday, December 15, 2011

Missing Sarah

To begin this blog, I would like to make a confession.  I generally do not like watching movies or reading books where the ending is well-known.  Despite its romantic nature and poetic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet is probably my least favourite Shakespearean play, for just this reason.  With this in mind, I began to read Missing Sarah by Maggie de Vries.  

The book begins with the revelation that the DNA of Maggie's adopted sister, was found on Robert Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam, BC.  Along with many other sex workers from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Sarah de Vries disappeared suddenly in 1998 while working her usual corner.  Her absence was noticed quickly by her loved ones and the tight-knit community of drug addicts and prostitutes that she associated with, but the police were slow to act.  It was only when her friend Wayne went to the media that any interest was shown by the Vancouver Police Department, and by then all the leads had run cold.  Due to the inaction of the police, the families of the missing women banded together to try and gain any answers about the state of the investigation.  Local media also played a part in pressuring the force to pay attention to the increasing number of women going missing.  

Missing Sarah depicts this fight for justice and is a compelling story of a grieving relative. She tells of how her family is dealing with the information that they will never be able to bury Sarah, nor can they live in the comfort that her last moments were peaceful. One of the more chilling moments is how someone approached Sarah's children and asked them if their mother was put in a wood chipper.  This book was written prior to Robert Pickton's trial and one cannot imagine how the publicity surrounding it would have negatively affected them.  

Though Sarah's horrific, unknown fate is at the centre of the book, her identity and personality really shine through the grisly narrative.  She wrote poetry and drew in a journal that was among her most treasured possessions.  In it she describes her life as an addict and a prostitute and provides a lot of insight into her life.  Maggie talks about how she would read her sister's letters and journal and every time she would hope that her sister's fate would turn out differently.  I, as a reader, had a similar sensation and constantly wanted to forget that she is no longer with us.  Though I don't have much in common with Sarah (except that we both like to write), I think any woman is a few bad choices away from ending up living the same lifestyle as she did.  Many people like to brush prostitutes aside as a small, fringe element of society, but de Vries allows us to see a different side of the story.         

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