Viking Canada, 2017
Reviewed by Chantelle Nazareth
“Who do the lucky become when their luck sours?”
~ Joanne Proulx, We All Love the Beautiful Girls
We All Love the Beautiful Girls is literary fiction by Joanne Proulx – a heart wrenching, emotional rollercoaster that captures the privileged lives of matron Mia Slate, her husband Michael, and Finn, their damaged son who is in love with a girl he cannot have.
On one winter night, Mia and Michael discover that their business partner of 15 years has cheated them out of their savings. Meanwhile, Finn is passed out in the snow after a party and an poor decision that costs him his hand. The story slowly builds to reveal how one night challenges each character in a different way as Proulx beautifully tells these three stories.
Finn, a damaged boy who is in love with Jess, his former babysitter who sneaks into his bed, will never leave her boyfriend.
Michael struggles to be a good father after losing the business pushes him closer to revenge. He goes to a batting cage at midnight where a street kid shags his flie.
Mia, unsatisfied with her job and her marriage, turns to infidelity with a co-worker.
Point of view moves from first-person to third-person narrative losing its connectivity with the characters’ emotions despite Proulx’s vivid detail and slow-building tension. The subtle desperation that lurks under the surface builds the family drama: Finn’s infatuation for Jess turns to a hopeful, pure but devastating obsession, while Michael and Mia drift further away from each other emotionally.
Close to the finale of the book, Mia sees two mothers in a grocery store. She doesn’t know them, but, “She wants to reach out and seize their arms as they pass, tell them to pay attention, be diligent, to never stop talking to their sons, to teach their girls to roar. No quitting, she wants to tell them. No quitting on the kids.”
Proulx succeeds in pushing characters to do things of which they aren’t proud in this dark and fragile tragedy where none of the Slates are either innocent nor spared.
Joanne Proulx’s debut novel Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet, published internationally, was the recipient of Canada’s Sunburst Award for Fantastic Fiction, was named a best debut of 2007 by The Globe and Mail, and was selected by Border’s in 2008 for their prestigious Best New Voices series. Joanne has had short stories published in several literary journals including Exile and Maisonneuve and is currently at work on her second novel, And the Boys Will Play.
We All Love the Beautiful Girls has breathless and daring plot twists that reveal how adversity can alter people who once appeared civil and yet are capable of brutal violence. We All Love the Beautiful Girls is a story about power, instinct, survival, love, and how far we’ll go to preserve them.