Sanctuary and Other Stories


187 pages
ISBN 0-919688-54-3
DDC C813'.54





Ronald Charles Epstein is a Toronto-based freelance writer and published poet.


The 14 tales in Jennifer Duncan’s first collection of short stories
(some of which have been previously published in Prairie Fire, Matrix,
and other literary magazines) are loosely linked by their downtown
setting and major characters from one story who appear in others.

Duncan establishes her (street) credibility by creatively evoking the
past with authority. In “Exorcism,” Layla, a postmodern artist,
recalls her first meeting with boyfriend Jules “in the Cameron” for
“the Handsome Ned matinee, with its happy hour special.” The Cameron
House still stands, but Handsome Ned and “happy hour” are both gone.
The gory details are included, but the picaresque has its point. In the
aforementioned story, Layla meets Bob, the “urban commune”
schoolmaster who molested her, in the Cameron. Afterward, she has Jules
recreate her traumatic childhood encounter to exorcise her past and test
her lover’s character; his inability to perform confirms her faith in

Problems occur, despite Duncan’s skill. In “Camellia & Jane,”
ditzy Camellia calls Jane from the Cruise motel and a preppy male
companion gives her the directions. The latter arrives there to break up
a sex party and then suggests that her friend go to a rape crisis
centre. If rape had actually occurred, would a participant give the
victim’s best friend directions to the scene of the crime? Or was
Camellia correct when she said that what she really needed was a “bad
date clinic”?

One might purchase a Siouxie and the Banshees tape for a former punk;
one might receive a copy of this book from a survivor of the 1980s punk
scene who wants to explain that subculture.


Duncan, Jennifer., “Sanctuary and Other Stories,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 12, 2024,