________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 3. . . . October 4, 2002

cover No Missing Parts: And Other Stories About Real Princesses.

Anne Laurel Carter.
Calgary, AB: Red Deer Press, 2002.
135 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 0-88995-253-1

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

*** /4



A small misfortune in my life is that I was raised mostly on fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. The adult in me knows Snow White looks ridiculous asleep in her casket waiting for a kiss. The little girl I was did not.

Every so often I find the notion of being saved still lurking in the deepest corner of my adult mind. How I wish I'd been raised on stories of other princesses - independent young women who, throughout the ages, took leadership, defied social conformity and were smart enough to banish evil from their home, whatever is guise. It has taken me years to appreciate that love, in all its many forms, saves us, but never appears as a handsome prince. The challenge is one of looking deeper, beneath an exterior. Love has many guises, too, and may arrive looking like a frog .... which will remain a frog.

In the "Note from the Author," Anne Laurel Carter sets out the duality of princesshood: one can be a passive princess-in-waiting, or a warrior princess, ready to do whatever is necessary to save oneself and those one loves. The ten stories of No Missing Parts cover a remarkable range of female experience, from the mythic past of "The Legend of Princess Sheila NaGeira" to the very current fear of AIDS borne by the protagonist of "Skating Home." And these are all Canadian princesses: Sybil of "Badlands" heads west at the end of the 19th century to become a school teacher in Drumheller, Nellie MacKinnon of "One Mighty Kiss" is escorted to a Gala Ball by an officer of the North West Mounted Police, and Tess of "Skating Home" goes to Second Cup on a date with her ice-skating boyfriend.

     Love really does save the young women depicted in this collection, although it certainly takes many different forms. Sometimes, love for one's country triumphs, as it does for the exiled Marie of "Far from Home: Marie Robichaud's Journal." Other times, it is love for members of family - a mother or a brother - which gives a girl strength. It inspires Sybil to escape the endless drudgery of child-bearing and housework that enslaved her mother and which gives Ruthie of "No Missing Parts" the courage to demand that her late brother's faithless fianc‚ return his engagement ring after his death. In "Leaving the Iron Lung," a warm and loving relationship with her vibrant Tante Marie offers Pauline a way out of her wheelchair and the opportunity to create a relationship with her newly-born sister.

     Some of the men that these young women encounter are less than princely. Ken, the fitness-obsessed boyfriend of Diana, namesake of the late Princess of Wales, and protagonist of "Saying Good-bye to Princess Di," refuses to let her watch the late Diana's funeral coverage live. Left on Kitsilano Beach while Ken goes for a 16k run, Diana meets a nerdy but sweet young man who really is a prince and is the knight in shining armour who comes to her emotional rescue. "Skating Home" finds Tess briefly swept up in a whirlwind romance with a young man who disappears as suddenly as he skated into her life; immediately, she faces the possibility of pregnancy and then, the more terrifying prospect of HIV infection. And, in "The Piano Lesson," the unnamed young music student of the story fumbles her way through a final music lesson as she tries to make sense of the chaos that her life has become. Love of music saves her.

     As I read No Missing Parts, I had to remind myself that one author wrote all of these stories. Carter impressed me with her versatility: the voice changes from story to story were amazing, and she admirably conveyed the sense of an era through dialogue that always rang true for the time.

     Female readers in upper high school grades (10 through 12) will enjoy this collection, especially if they're mature enough to enjoy its variety of style and sensibility.


Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364