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Fiction Nature & The Environment

To the Forest

by (author) Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette

translated by Rhonda Mullins

Coach House Books
Initial publish date
Jun 2023
Nature & the Environment, Literary, Family Life
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jun 2023
    List Price

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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, Anaïs 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.

About the authors

Born in 1979, and named an Artist for Peace in 2012, Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette has directed several award-winning documentary features. She also directed two fiction features: Le Ring (2008), Inch'allah (2012, which received the Fipresci Prize in Berlin). She is the author of the travelogue Embrasser Yasser Arafat (2011) and the novels Je voudrais qu'on m'efface (2010) and Le femme qui fuit (Prix des libraires du Québec, Prix France-Québec, Prix de la ville de Montréal), garnering both critical and popular success. 

Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette's profile page

Rhonda Mullins is a writer and translator living in Montréal. She received the 2015 Governor General's Literary Award for Twenty-One Cardinals, her translation of Jocelyne Saucier's Les héritiers de la mine. And the Birds Rained Down, her translation of Jocelyne Saucier’s Il pleuvait des oiseaux, was a CBC Canada Reads Selection. It was also shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award, as were her translations of Élise Turcotte’s Guyana and Hervé Fischer’s The Decline of the Hollywood Empire.

Rhonda Mullins' profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Anais, 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 Quebec
"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 foret 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

Other titles by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette

Other titles by Rhonda Mullins