I met Canadian author Joanne Proulx about five years ago. When we met, she had already published a wonderful novel called Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet, which I fell in love with quickly and deeply and for real. It’s a beautiful book. And it’s being made into a major motion film starring Juliette Lewis, Cameron Monaghan, Grayson Gabriel and Alexander MacNicoll. It’s scheduled for release in 2018, and I can’t wait to watch.
Now Proulx has written another novel, We All Love the Beautiful Girls. I had an opportunity to read an advanced copy of the novel, and it’s so good that it hurts—heartbreaking and full of hope all at the same time.
Robert Wiersema reviewed the book for The Toronto Star, and he gave this synopsis of how the book starts:
Proulx spends the book’s first few pages offering glimpses into what seem nearly blessed lives. Mia and Michael are happily married, with a certain level of financial freedom: Michael is partner in a property management company and Mia, having left a job in banking, is now trying to build a career as a photographer. They might not be able to afford a spontaneous weekend in Whistler, but they own their own home and make do with skiing vacations closer to home in the company of their friends Helen and Peter — Michael’s partner — and their daughter Frankie. Their son, Finn, 17, is a good student, popular, who receives secret nocturnal visits from Jess, the beautiful girl next door, who years before was his babysitter.
Their idyllic lives are shattered, however, with the events of one night in late February. Early that evening, Mia and Michael are informed that not only has Peter been embezzling from the company, he has actually written Michael out of the partnership, stealing the firm out from under him. Later that night, intoxicated and fleeing a debauched house party, Finn passes out in the snow, and loses his right hand to the cold.
While this sounds like it might be the set-up for a standard triumph-against-adversity narrative, a fall-and-rise story, Proulx has something considerably stronger, and subtler, in store. The shifting fortunes of the Slate family put each character through their own individual struggles, pushing them to the breaking point, and beyond. (Read all of Wiersema’s review here.)
“The book is also about anger and its consequences, both sexual and physical,” says Peter Robb in Ottawa’s artsfile. Robb also reports:
When she was young, Joanne Proulx had a brush with danger. A young man threw her over his shoulder at a party and headed upstairs. It was funny to start and then it wasn’t funny at all. Proulx avoided being sexually assaulted because, she said, she’s a fighter, but many, many women aren’t so fortunate.
The Ottawa writer has taken her own life experiences and those of many others, and built a book, a complex, thoughtful and provocative second novel called We All Love the Beautiful Girls that probes deeply into the lives and relationships of privileged people and those that they hold in their sway.
Proulx says this novel was written in part because she saw a terrifying rise in violence against women all over the world. “It was always there but the conversation seemed to be moving more to the centre,” she told Robb. And although this novel is not overtly political, it’s definitely a novel of our current political ad social atmosphere, where anyone who has power will use it regardless of the consequences. Despite that truth, We All Love the Beautiful Girls is a pleasure to read. Buy it today.