Book review: Missed Her by Ivan E. Coyote

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      Published by Arsenal Pulp Press, 144 pp, $18.95, softcover

      CanLit stereotypes were meant to be broken. Sweeping rural landscapes, the wisdom of grandparents, long winters, and even longer roads home—surely there’s more to life in Canada than Who Has Seen the Wind (no offence, W. O. Mitchell). And there is. Once again, Vancouver author Ivan E. Coyote proves that the endearing, often beautiful Canadiana at the heart of our experience is textured with everyday acts of political resistance, subversion, and love. Missed Her, Coyote’s sixth book, is a short-story collection that affectionately celebrates the author’s rural roots while keeping a sharp eye on the urban intellectual context in which she lives.

      Missed Her depicts Commercial Drive sidewalks, Yukon bars, rural diners, and the sprawling highways that connect them, all with equal warmth. For Coyote, they are all evocative of home. She was born and raised in Whitehorse, now resides in East Vancouver, and frequently travels across the country to perform her stories, poems, and music to audiences of all stripes. The bulk of the stories in this collection are drawn from Coyote’s life over the past three years, during which she lived briefly in Ottawa, toured often through Western Canada, and returned to Whitehorse to witness the passing of her grandmother, Florence Amelia Mary Lawless Daws. Coyote dedicated the book to her.

      As the title suggests—Missed Her sounds like “mister”—the collection deals with fluidity in gender and sexuality, much like Coyote’s previous work.

      Her intimate storytelling seldom grows tired, and her wry, unadorned writing style is unique in its conversational simplicity. Stories about her grandmother’s young life, her own northern, hockey-playing childhood, and teaching a seniors’ writing workshop flow seamlessly into others with excellent titles like “Boner Preservation Society” and “Uncle Ivan’s Lonely Hearts Club Plan”.

      Coyote’s sense of humour and genuine affection for people from all walks of life (see “Some of My Best Friends Are Rednecks”) bridge urban-rural gaps that might otherwise preclude an effective exploration of the social markers that attempt and fail to define us in traditional, heterosexual terms. The effect is akin to attending a party where Coyote has invited all of her friends and family: it’s a motley assortment of people and ideas, but no one feels out of place, and everyone is welcome.

      Ivan E. Coyote will take part in two events at the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival: Out Loud at Night, a celebration of spoken word, on Tuesday (October 19) at Granville Island’s Revue Stage; and Short Stories, Varied Voices, alongside fellow writers Billie Livingston, Sarah Selecky, and Terence Young, at PTC Studio on October 24.