Actor Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette tries to solve the enigma of her grandmother's life in her memoir Suzanne.

Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins

Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette never knew her mother's mother. Curious to understand why her grandmother, Suzanne, a sometime painter and poet associated with Les Automatistes, a movement of dissident artists that included Paul-Émile Borduas, abandoned her husband and young family, Barbeau-Lavalette hired a private detective to piece together Suzanne's life.

Suzanne, winner of the Prix des libraires du Québec and a bestseller in French, is a fictionalized account of Suzanne's life over 85 years, from Montreal to New York to Brussels, from lover to lover, through an abortion, alcoholism, Buddhism, and an asylum. It takes readers through the Great Depression, Québec's Quiet Revolution, women's liberation and the American civil rights movement, offering a portrait of a volatile, fascinating woman on the margins of history. And it's a granddaughter's search for a past for herself, for understanding and forgiveness. (From Coach House Books)

From the book

The first time you saw me, I was one hour old. You were old enough to have courage. 

Fifty, maybe. 

It was at St. Justine Hospital. I had just come into the world. I already had a big appetite. I drank her milk like I make love now, like it's the last time. 

My mother had just given birth to me. Her daughter, her firstborn. 

I imagine you entering the room. Your face round like ours. Your dark eyes heavily lined in kohl. 

You enter unapologetically. Walking confidently. Even though it has been twenty-seven years since you last saw my mother. 

From Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette ©2017. Published by Coach House Books. 


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