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No Fixed Address: 11/20/18
No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen is set in and around the Kitsilano neighborhood of Vancouver, British Columbia. It's an area I have family ties to so this book hit me hard.
Felix Knuttson and his mother had been living with his grandmother until she died. Since then they've been going from place to place, each time downgrading, until at last there is nowhere else to go but the camper van. They are officially homeless.
Felix is half Swedish, a quarter French and a quarter Haitian, but all Canadian. He's at the school he wants to be at because of subterfuge. Schools (especially high schools) require proof of residence. That's not something he can prove when living in a VW.
Part of what is keeping them homeless (besides the outrageous cost of living in Vancouver) is Felix's mother's mental illness. It makes it hard to hold down a job and as things spiral more and more out of control, she spends more and more of her time sleeping in the back of the camper van.
One thing that will stick with me is the way that Felix and his mother would park their van inside the garages of empty houses to use the power and water. Large chunks of Vancouver sit empty, owned by foreign investors. Canada has cracked down on this sort of real estate purchase but the damage has been done by further exacerbating a housing shortage.
No Fixed Address also sits on the road narrative spectrum. It comes in at a marginalized (66) home (66) blue highway (33). While Felix and his mother are a family, they are marginalized by their homelessness and by the mother's mental illness. Their goal though remains finding a stable, affordable home. That means the mother must find a job she can hold and probably government assistance. Finally there are the streets of Vancouver which have become their home. As the 99 runs into and through Vancouver, I'm counting the road for this book as a Blue Highway.