Review: Cathleen With’s ‘Skids’ a raw glimpse of Vancouver’s Eastside

Revealing the invisible — Lara Purvis, Ottawa XPress

Cathleen With’s Skids a raw glimpse of Vancouver’s Eastside

Cathleen With is unafraid of truth. Words spill from her pen like blood from an open wound. Skids is an irrepressible purging of stories needing to be told. But With carries a noble intention – to pay homage to the voices that she grew to love, the voices of the homeless and the disenfranchised in the heart of Vancouver’s Eastside.

Skids is published by Vancouver’s black sheep of the publishing industry, Arsenal Pulp Press, and in true Arsenal Pulp fashion, the novel challenges the status quo and confronts the James Frey-ed romanticism of drug addiction and homelessness. The stories vary: addicted parents; parents turning tricks; most often dysfunctional families being the reason for leaving home, hitting the street and choosing to stay there. There are those in transition, holed up in detox clinics and recovery houses, fighting desperately for a better life. Throughout the collection the most common theme is the search for love, human connection and companionship.

Pyjamas, a brief story mid-book, illustrates the relationship between survival and the need for love. A young woman in the psych ward tries to avoid her prescription drugs, hoping a friend will do the same. She hopes that if they aren’t sedated, they won’t wake up in a foggy haze and they’ll be able to do the impossible – hug, maybe kiss.

“Pyjamas means you can’t go out. Then there’s clothes, but no outs, then clothes and out for two hours, then clothes and out for the day, from nine to three only. I’m on

pyjamas for two weeks cuz of the noose thing and they also caught me and Kevin in the can. They didn’t demote him to pyjamas too, though we were only kissing, and he’s not into girls anyways. But who isn’t into kissing, especially in zombie zone psych ward, you got to get some loving in here or you truly will go insane.”

Like most of the stories in Skids, Pyjamas doesn’t subscribe to a necessarily happy ending. While the young woman waits in the bathroom, Kevin, who doesn’t manage to check his meds, passes out. And when the young woman falls asleep in the bath, the nurses rush in to “save” her, accusing her of trying to end her life again – a crime that carries a sentence of several more weeks in the pyjama ward.

The result of a collection of stories such as Pyjamas is a mournful elegy, anecdotes so painful in their truth that one can barely continue reading. Thankfully, the short story form ensures the reader is not overwhelmed but deeply touched. Raw and compassionate, this is not a book to be read cover to cover, but rather one story at a time.

> Read the full review

0 Responses to “Review: Cathleen With’s ‘Skids’ a raw glimpse of Vancouver’s Eastside”


  • No Comments

Leave a Reply