The Next Chapter

Jen Sookfong Lee on why The Fire Dwellers is Margaret Lawrence's most underrated novel

The author of The Conjoined explains why she thinks this classic is the best novel about Vancouver, B.C.
Jen Sookfong Lee recommends The Fire Dwellers for readers looking to get a glimpse of what life was like in 1960s Vancouver.

Vancouver resident Jen Sookfong Lee's latest book, The Conjoinedis a murder mystery that takes place in Vancouver's Chinatown in the late 1980s. Here's why she thinks Margaret Laurence's The Fire Dwellers is the best representation of her hometown.

In The Fire Dwellers, Stacey is a housewife living in suburban Vancouver in the late 1960s. She has four children and she spends her time coming up with all these disaster scenarios that her children could be caught in — like being hit by a car or caught in a house fire — and how on earth she would save them and is any of this her fault. Throughout all of this, she walks through the streets of Vancouver, goes shopping and eventually takes a lover who lives in North Vancouver. In the 1960s, North Vancouver was sparsely settled, it was just cabins on cliff sides. It's this very intense geographical experience of a very particular time in Vancouver. I think it really captures how Vancouver was growing so much at that time and how very much it was always bordered by nature, by ocean, by rock and by mountain, and how the city itself seemed to push against these limits just like Stacey is pushing against the limits of her marriage and her family. 

 Jen Sookfong Lee's commented have been edited and condensed.