October 12, 2017

We All Love the Beautiful Girls - Joanne Proulx

Penguin Random House Canada, August 22, 2017.

Five Stars

Mia and Michael Slate and their son Finn are a healthy, happy and prosperous family. They co-own a successful company, giving Mia time to pursue her passion as a photographer, and they live in a beautiful home in which they want for nothing. However, their perfect lives are shattered one night when they receive an unexpected visit from their accountant – he interrupts their cozy evening to tell them that their best friend and business partner has been embezzling from them for years, leaving them financially destitute.

Mia, a former corporate banker, cannot believe that Michael did not realize what was happening. She goes to bed angry, leaving her husband to wait up for their teenage son Finn. Hours past curfew, Michael starts to worry, and he heads out into their small town to search for his son. Eventually, he tracks Finn to a party at his wealthy best friend’s property, where he discovers Finn passed out in a snowbank after drinking too much. His tragic mistake has devastating consequences that echo through the whole family.

Finn survives the night, but loses his hand to frostbite, and everyone copes differently with the loss. Finn begins a clandestine relationship with his former babysitter Jess, who happens to be dating Finn’s best friend’s older brother. Mia and Michael lose the tenderness of their decades long marriage – instead of communicating, they retreat into rough sex and silence. Mia enters into a dangerous flirtation with a former colleague, and Michael begins to spend his time at an abandoned baseball diamond, playing catch with a scruffy street kid who replaces his damaged relationship with his son.

The Slate family slowly unravels throughout the novel, as they struggle with money and intimacy. All three characters take turns narrating the story, as they all get closer to the edge of betrayal, revenge and violence. The novel is written with honest and clear emotion, reaching deep into the compassionate terrain of marriage, parenting and what it means to be a family. The characters are solid and well-defined, populating a touching and emotional world without becoming saccharine or melodramatic.

We All Love the Beautiful Girls explores how the choices we make can affect everyone around us, and how people show their true colours in the face of tragedy. While I enjoyed the Canadian content of the novel (it’s set in Quebec), its themes have global reach, especially regarding the normalization of violence – specifically towards women – in our current socio-political climate. I didn’t know much about this book when I started it, and I think that’s the best way to read it – it started out slow, and therefore it was surprising yet appropriate when the story became increasingly savage and raw. These characters express real heartache, and with narrators that cross gender and age boundaries, I think this novel could speak to a wide audience as we struggle with how to connect to each other in the world we now live in.

I received this book from Penguin Random House Canada and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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