Reena: A Father’s Story
November 4, 2013
Review By Margaret Wright
There will be few people in British Columbia who are unfamiliar with Reena Virk’s name. In Reena: A Father’s Story, Manjit Virk tries to give what, in his view, is a more accurate depiction of his daughter’s life and death, and of himself as her father, than has so far been offered. It is a first-person account rather than an objective analysis. As such, it has something to offer those of us who study these events from an academic distance.
Initially, Manjit Virk details his early life in India, the circumstances surrounding his migration to Canada, and the process through which he melded Canadian and Indian culture. The remainder of the book is a moving document of his continuing struggle to understand what happened to his daughter, to himself, and to his family.
In Chapter 6, Virk begins to describe Reena’s developing rebellious behaviour. He describes her rapid growth as an early adolescent and the bullying she experienced as a result. He voices his frustration about her school’s failure to help her and documents his struggles to find a viable solution to the problem, including contemplating moving back to India for a time. He then describes how Reena made contact with a group of kids in a park, how he and his wife objected because the kids smoked, and the resultant power struggle that ended with Reena in the care of the government after she made a claim of abuse. He talks about what it was like to be charged with sexual abuse, to spend the night in jail, and to cope with his public and private life after that allegation. He also talks about how he was later exonerated. He is very critical of the Ministry for Children and Families. Throughout his account, Virk describes his attempts to understand why his daughter would lie about him and why people in authority would believe her, why they would not see through her claim to a child in pain and a family that needed a different kind of help than what they were offered.
Some of the most compelling parts of the book involve Virk’s accounts of living with the media reaction to his daughter’s murder. He describes what it was like being subjected to speculation as to why his daughter had been murdered as well as being somehow judged to be vicariously responsible.
This book offers a vivid depiction of a father’s pain on the death of his child and of his hopes and dreams for her. It provides an overwhelming sense of a father who is struggling to figure out what happened and why.