To the Forest
CBC BOOKS WORKS OF CANADIAN FICTION TO READ IN THE FIRST HALF OF 2023
When the pandemic forces a family to return to the mother’s childhood home, she seeks meaning in her ancestral roots and the violent beauty of the natural world.
Fleeing the city at the beginning of the pandemic, two families are thrown together in a century-old country house. Winter seeps through the walls, the wallpaper is peeling, and the mice make their nest in the piano. Without phones and Internet, they turn to the outdoors, where a new language unfolds. Five children become tiny explorers, discovering nature and its treasures, while the adults reconnect with something greater than themselves.
In To the Forest, AnaÃ¯s Barbeau-Lavalette considers existence and death in a celebration of small places and the natural world. A house built on a foundation of gravestones, the local handyman Clark Kent, a mystery woman long dead that no one wants to talk about: Barbeau-Lavalette brings to life the oddities of a place and a cast of colourful neighbours who have lived unusual lives.
“Anaïs, with extraordinary delicacy and a flawless sense of observation, offers up words on love, death, great adventures, passing along knowledge and values, finding roots, beauty, and the resilience of nature.” – Journal de Québec
“With rare literary talent, the author tells a story that is tonic and poetic, that grabs readers from the opening lines and doesn’t let them go. An absolute jewel of emotion. Stunning!” – Salut, Bonjour!
“An autobiographical novel, spellbinding for its poetry, where imagination reigns, Femme forêt is like a reverse mirror of La femme qui fuit/Suzanne (Marchand de feuilles, 2015; Coach House Books, 2017), a magnificent portrait of her maternal grandmother, artist Suzanne Meloche. The aftermath of a ‘family history woven from abandonment,’ she wanted to weave ties with her loved ones, her community, and nature.” – Le Devoir
“Through pages and fragments that echo one another, the author tells the story of her clan, moments filled with the ordinary moments and the magic they experienced in their hideaway in the forest. She also brings to life a cast of colourful characters who have lived unusual lives.” – La Tribune