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The Beggar's Garden

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  381 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Brilliantly sure-footed, strikingly original, tender and funny, this memorable collection of nine linked stories follows a diverse group of curiously interrelated characters— from bank manager to crackhead to retired Samaritan to mental patient to web designer to car thief — as they drift through each other’s lives like ghosts in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside.

Hardcover, 262 pages
Published January 25th 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 2011)
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Apr 09, 2011 Petra rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stuff
Michael Christie has a way of looking at people and seeing the core of their being. He sees not the “discards” of society as he tells these stories but the people with dreams, ideas and feelings. He tells their stories with dignity, truth and understanding. I enjoyed every story within these pages.
The plights of the people in these stories are told in a way that brings their fears, paranoia and addictions to the reader. We share in their mania and look into their pasts.
Very well written. Chris
Kristi Barr
Feb 16, 2011 Kristi Barr rated it it was amazing
Read. This. Book. Life changing read. SO much more than another bleak collection of stories about the Vancouver East Side. Don't be scared to dive into this book - the eloquent and compelling stories within serve to remind us that humanity takes many forms - and that what makes us different from each other is our histories. Michael Christie reminds us that there are people behind the stereotypes. With his authentic voice, he makes us think what we would do, who we would be, how we would act and ...more
Mar 19, 2011 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Faces swing into our orbit and out again like comets, trajectories forever altered by Oppie’s generous crack policies and philosophical musings. He is electric and alive. His interest is insatiable. Lecturing as he walks, he relates mind-bending scientific concepts with ease and grace. We are a team. Although nobody recognizes him, I feel proud to be partying with such a distinguished man of science. Prostitutes approach him and he respectfully tells them he has no interest in “erotic labour” bu ...more
Aug 09, 2012 Kirsten rated it it was amazing
I never thought I was a “short stories” person. I dunno, I just kind of formed this idea of a person who is constantly drinking coffee, carries a moleskine and liquid gel pen around with them and is constantly writing down pithy phrases and making “ironic” observations about the people around them so that they could one day write their own pathetic volume of short stories and give it to people at Christmas because no one will buy it. THOSE people were short stories people.

So #whostosay why I pu
George Ilsley
Dec 21, 2011 George Ilsley rated it liked it
Sadly, this collection did not live up to its hype. It was not an uneven collection, but that observation is a way to say that none of the pieces stood out. I did not feel that any of the pieces actually became an excellent short story. Christie's skill is his evocative descriptions, and he is especially fond of turning nouns into verbs (don't knock it - that's where "mushroomed" got its start).

My favourite story, An Ideal Companion, is about obsessive dog owners (an overly common Vancouver bree
Nov 03, 2010 Jen rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
A great collection of Vancouver-set stories from former pro skateboarder Michael Christie.

My favourites are the first story, Emergency Contact, which is both laugh-out-loud and break-your-heart good, and the best story in the collection in my opinion, The Extra, and An Ideal Companion.

Vancouver's "notorious Downtown Eastside" (ALWAYS gotta say it like that) was a place I didn't know about until seeing the documentary series about the cops who patrol the area, The Beat. It's on OLN, and sometime
Dec 07, 2012 Debbie rated it really liked it
This collection of short stories is set in the “riotous and hellish, but strangely contained, slum of [Vancouver’s] Downtown Eastside”. This area which includes part of Hastings Street is infamous across Canada. As one of Christie’s characters observes: “It was as if the country had been tipped up at one end and all the sorry b!@#$%$s had slid west, stopping only when they reached the sea, perhaps because the sea didn’t want them either.”

Told from various points of view – the grandfather who lea
Feb 20, 2012 Patricia rated it really liked it
This was in interesting group of semi-interlinking stories, each stand-alone, that had some great spots. Being from Vancouver, and all the stories set in Vancouver, and each story with a tie to the Downtown East Side, I could imagine each of the characters, where they walked and lived.

I wish I could have given this book 5 stars but there was just "something" missing to warrant the fifth star. Enjoyable read though.

Feb 12, 2011 Alexis rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
Debut collection of short stories, mostly set in Vancouver's Downtown East side. I liked the setting and some of the description that Christie brought to the stories was just beautiful.

There were some stories I liked better than others. Christie used to work with mentally ill people, and 2 of the stories deal with mental illness. He does a great job of showing the lives of street people and the mentally ill. I felt this collection was a bit uneven, but still showed a lot of talent.
Allison H
Nov 03, 2016 Allison H rated it really liked it
Possibly closer to 4.5 stars...this was a sad yet beautiful collection of connected (ish) short stories. There were a couple I didn't enjoy as much for or had endings I was disappointed in but overall it was a beautiful collection of characters in Vancouver's notorious Downtown East side.
Mar 02, 2013 Kelda rated it liked it
One of my favourite things about this book is Christie's titles. They're genius.

"Emergency Contact" is about a woman who is completely isolated, and creates nonexistent relationships with certain paramedics she finds reasons to call again and again. At one point she's asked to give her emergency contact info, and asks to pass because she has no one to write down.

"Discard" is about a kid who is abandoned by his parents, raised by his grandparents, and ends up homeless on the streets of Vancouver
Ruth Seeley
Dec 03, 2011 Ruth Seeley rated it really liked it
Just loved this collection of short stories about the DTES (downtown east side) in Vancouver, particularly because it doesn't just focus on what we think of as the majority of the residents of this area, the dispossessed, the homeless, and the drug addicts who flock to Pigeon Park (pun intended). One of my favourite stories in the collection was "The Queen of Cans and Jars," about a woman who's been running a thrift shop after working for Woodwards for 20 years. Here's an example of Christie's d ...more
Mar 02, 2013 Katiclops rated it it was amazing
The stories fit nicely into one another, like Timothy Taylor’s Stanley Park. They contain everything you would anticipate from a Vancouver book, deftly demonstrating the poignancy, empathy and awareness of it’s author. As if articulating the faults of the city absolves us from sharing in it’s guilt. Somehow though, in part in his simplicity, in part for his complete absolution to leave the stories separate, to present them objectively, in with an almost mathematical degree of calculation.
In the
Sep 30, 2011 Kendra rated it really liked it
Shelves: giller-nominee
Michael Christie's collection of stories is set in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, a rough area of the city. Read together, the stories are linked thematically by the loneliness of the characters that offers a portrait of a community in which people are struggling against separate demons. Christie is hugely successful in creating compelling characters, whose voices speak from the margins, yet offer great insight into their world and human experience as a whole.

In "Discard", a grandfather trying t
To be fair I would actually rate this 2.5 stars instead of three. My thoughts are that this collection of short stories are uneven, most of the stories are supposed to be character driven, but in the end I felt disappointed. I didn't feel like I was reading about people, more like words on a page. It's fiction, that doesn't matter. If you're a good writer you can get your reader to get involved with the character.

The last story, "The Beggar's Garden," which the collection is named after, is pro
 Sinéad  O'Brien
Jun 13, 2016 Sinéad O'Brien rated it really liked it
Shelves: 52-books-2016, canlit
As someone who spent the better part of a decade living and working in East Van I was very excited to read this book. And it did not disappoint. It was compassionate, humanizing, interesting and gritty. Christie nails the rattling juxtaposition of Vancouver: a beautiful city made of glass surrounded by sparkly ocean and dramatic mountains, with the poorest and most disaffected neighbourhood in the country inside it. It's hard to explain the Downtown Eastside and especially to those who stigmatiz ...more
Aug 19, 2014 Andrew rated it it was ok
Well written fiction which reads like real life. These short stories offer sobering snap-shots of life from the margins; powerful, yet utterly depressing.

"Sometimes I do worry about lasting damage, tracks laid down that can never be picked up, that sort of thing. I often try to remember what it was like to not know what the crack high feels like, and I can't. In this way, crack rewrote my history. I remember my mother, who quit smoking cigarettes when she had me and said she dreamed of them alm
Damu Ko
Sep 09, 2016 Damu Ko rated it really liked it
Many of the short stories in this collection are funny in such a sad way. He finds humor in the lonely girl who calls 911 for company, the patient of the mental hospital who is sure he is being targeted for assassination. The quality of all his characters are real and fantastic.
Sep 10, 2013 Shannon rated it it was amazing
Excellent read. These stories are a realistic portrayal of the experience of the downtown east side. The stories caputure some important parts of Vancouver's history, including Woodward's and Riverview. I believe that the biggest fault with this book is placing "Emergency Contact" at the front. While it does set the stage for the stories to come, and while it also is a valuable portrayal of someone who lives on the edge of society, I feel as though it does not engage the reader as much as some o ...more
Jul 18, 2015 Alyson rated it really liked it
I found this book difficult because the darkness of the lives of the characters was hard to cope with. In spite of this, I read the entire book as I wanted to know the humans described and the lives they were living that were so different from mine.
Now that I work on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, I think of this book often. I sometimes wonder if the people I meet each day are experiencing similar inner dialogues and interactions with entities that I don't see. I also walk through Oppenheimer Pa
Adam  McPhee
May 05, 2014 Adam McPhee rated it it was amazing
Excellent short stories featuring believable people from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. My favourite was the manically paced Goodbye Porkpie Hat, about a crack addict who receives an unlikely visit from nuclear scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who is interested in procuring some crack for himself. Christie excels at writing the down and out as well as the mentally unhinged. King Me is what Shutter Island should have been and Discard is a heartbreakingly sad story about a grandfather trying to he ...more
Lorry-ann Austin
Nov 09, 2014 Lorry-ann Austin rated it it was ok
First let me say that I did not finish this book and I hate not finishing a book. I very rarely walk away from a story once I have begun and perhaps this would have resonated with me more if I had continued. I just couldn't as the stories were so depressing and nothing ever happened in them. The writing is good and the glimpse into life on the Downtown East-side of Vancouver is likely very accurate, but the stories lacked human resilience and hope. Perhaps life does lack this for many in that ar ...more
Buried In Print
This review was deleted following Amazon's purchase of GoodReads.

The review can still be viewed via LibraryThing, where my profile can be found here.

I'm also in the process of building a database at Booklikes, where I can be found here.

If you read/liked/clicked through to see this review here on GR, many thanks.
Aug 04, 2011 Ayelet rated it it was amazing
I just loved this book so much. This is Christie’s first book; his stories about marginal characters in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side are long and involved and read like mini-novels, which is pretty much my favourite kind of short fiction. They are gritty, but not bleak, honest and compelling. Christie was shortlised to a few awards for this collection and is the winner of the City of Vancouver Book Award. (And look at this gorgeous cover!)
Jan 20, 2012 Laurel rated it liked it
A series of short stories, based mostly in Vancouver, BC, told from the point of view of the homeless, the mentally ill/institutionalized, and those who interact with them. An amazing look into lives that we don't/can't imagine. Worth the read. Listed for several lit prizes, winner of the City of Vancouver Book Award.
Sue Pretty
Nov 18, 2016 Sue Pretty rated it really liked it
I would give this marvellous collection of short stories Four and A Half Stars - if 'half-stars' were available. The prose is unlike anything I've ever read. There were times I had to sit in spellbound silence to process the picture in my head before I could continue reading. This fella has a gift!
Apr 22, 2013 Bonnie rated it it was ok
I suppose I could have been more generous, as this collection of stories did evoke emotions in me. But all in all, it was so depressing, so hollow-eyed and hopeless. I'm not familiar with the slums of Vancouver (indeed, did not even know Vancouver possessed such a thing), and so I may be missing some context.
Jul 26, 2013 Matthec rated it it was amazing
I agree with Kristi. Our lives are filled with us rushing from here to there. Many of us make sweeping generalizations about people we see around us. Few of us take a moment to get to know the person behind the initial impression. This author allows us a moment to enter their worlds. I loved the images. Crisp, thoughtful, and sincerely written. I look forward to more by this author.
Oct 13, 2012 Carolyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club-books
This collection of connected short stories is really quite good. First work for this author. The stories are very thought provoking and original. The stories are set in Vancouver. I pretty much ran the gamut of emotions as I read these stories, ranging from laughing myself sick with some of them to wiping tears from my eyes due to heartbreak from others.
Laura Elisabeth
Jul 19, 2011 Laura Elisabeth rated it did not like it
Read the summary & was very intrigued - had a bloody hard time getting through even three of the short stories. Nothing in particular actually happened! I've noticed the last few short stories collects I've read have been curiously inert, but this was felt even more strangely stifled and static.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Into the Heart of the Country
  • Better Living Through Plastic Explosives
  • A World Elsewhere
  • Monoceros
  • A Good Man
  • The Little Shadows
  • Extensions
  • Sointula
  • L'Énigme du retour
  • Once You Break a Knuckle
  • This Will Be Difficult to Explain: And Other Stories
  • Requiem
  • The Antagonist
  • This Cake Is for the Party: Stories
  • How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?
  • The Radiant City
  • Light Lifting
  • The Free World
MICHAEL CHRISTIE’s debut book of fiction, The Beggar’s Garden, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Prize for Fiction, and won the Vancouver Book Award. Prior to earning an MFA from the University of British Columbia, he was a sponsored skateboarder and travelled throughout the world skateboarding and writing for skateboard magazines. Born in Thunder Ba ...more
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