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Fiction Nature & The Environment

To the Forest

by (author) Anais 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
  • Downloadable audio file

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price

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When a family is forced 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 cramped together in a small century-old country house. Winter seeps through the walls, the wallpaper is peeling, and mice make their nest in the piano. Without phones or internet, they turn to the outdoors, where a new language unfolds, a language of fireflies and clover. The five children explore nature and its treasures, while our narrator, Anaïs, turns to the eccentric neighbours and her own family history to find peace and meaning in the middle of her life.

To the Forest is a field guide to a quieter life, a call to return to the places where we can reweave the threads of memory, where existence waltzes with death, where we can recapture what it means to be alive.


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. 

Anais Barbeau-Lavalette's profile page

Rhonda Mullins is a Montreal-based translator who has translated many books from French into English, including Jocelyne Saucier’s And Miles To Go Before I Sleep, Grégoire Courtois’ The Laws of the Skies, Dominique Fortier’s Paper Houses, and Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s Suzanne. She is a seven-time finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation, winning the award in 2015 for her translation of Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals. Novels she has translated were contenders for CBC Canada Reads in 2015 and 2019 and one was a finalist for the 2018 Best Translated Book Award. Mullins was the inaugural literary translator in residence at Concordia University in 2018. She is a mentor to emerging translators in the Banff International Literary Translation Program.

Rhonda Mullins' profile page

Editorial Reviews

"[To the Forest excels] in defining the feel of phases, how they are thought of later, and how we begin to tell them at the time." – Kate Kennedy, Event Magazine

"Covering a period of grief, growth, and rebirth, To the Forest is an exquisite novel that revels in wild places." – Michelle Anne Schingler, Foreword Reviews

“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

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