Monday October 23, 2017

Why Joanne Proulx wanted to explore an unravelling marriage in her most recent novel

We All Love the Beautiful Girls is Joanne Proulx's sophomore novel.

We All Love the Beautiful Girls is Joanne Proulx's sophomore novel. (Penguin Random House/Simon Proulx)

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Joanne Proulx's novel We All Love the Beautiful Girls explores the lives of characters Mia and Michael Slate and how the married couple responds when they suffer both financial and personal losses one fateful winter evening. Proulx, who won the Sunburst Award for fantastic fiction for her debut novel, Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet, in 2008, has crafted a captivating case study in what happens when those accustomed to living a certain way of life have their lives upended.  

Privilege

"The characters are part of a privileged family that have suffered very few hard knocks. I wanted to explore how the privileged react to loss — do we run, do we forgive or do we try to get even? I wanted to look at how the decisions we make in hard times ripple out through our circle of friends and family and what that looks like when it ripples out to a broader world where people may be a little more vulnerable to our dalliances."

Secrets

"I loved writing the book in the three different voices because only the reader knows the whole story. I have very close relationships with both my parents and my children and I am still agog sometimes of the things I found out that I didn't know in the moment. No matter how close, no matter how intimate we are with our spouses, our children and our parents, we live our lives alone in our minds and we share only what we choose to share. Part of loving a person is trusting that too — I don't need to know everything."

Conflicting voices

"There seemed to be this rise in violence against women in our culture, that conversation began to move more to the forefront. And at the same time, Fifty Shades of Grey became this big hit with women. And those were two dynamics I couldn't reconcile. I thought, 'OK, I'm going to take a hard look at this. Is this really what women want?' So, Mia, the wife in the story, is playing around in the edge of rougher sex. Then, as the novel progresses, it seems fairly harmless. But, in the end, she has to take a hard look at herself and ask, 'What is that in me, what is it about me, what is it about our culture, perhaps, that leads us to rougher sex?' While we have made real progress, still even in our western, liberal culture women have to fight for a voice and have to fight to protect their bodies. When I was writing the book, there is one woman's voice and two male voices — that represents a true division of voice in our society."

Joanne Proulx's comments have been edited and condensed.