What a beautiful novel about friendship, which explores both its strength and its contradictions, against a backdrop of overwhelming current events!
All the novels by Nathalie Babin- Gagnon are marked by violence, but she has such a way of telling that it is the sweetness that we retain. Her fifth book, Marie's choices, proves it again.
It is about two friends, Lauréanne and Marie, who became accomplices during their difficult adolescence in Val-d'Or . They are suffocating there and have only one desire: to leave. Patiently, they collect their money and, as soon as they complete their 5th grade, they take the road to Montreal.
Farewell to Abitibi, to them the realization of their ambitions!
In fact, it is Marie, strong and disciplined, who leads the duo. She has decided: Lauréanne will become a lawyer and herself will be a doctor.
But here she succumbs to the spellbinding charm of Yacoub, a young Algerian who is also studying medicine. She becomes pregnant at the very moment when the handsome boy, who flutters about, lets her fall without qualms.
Change of course
However, ignoring her heartache, ignoring her professional aspirations, Marie decides to keep the child. She will not be a doctor, but a mother.
Lauréanne is flabbergasted and her incomprehension gives an interesting tone to this novel of which she is the narrator. As she has an unwavering attachment to Marie, she remains by her side while judging her choices, but in petto: there is no question of breaking the bond that unites them.
Thus, as the two women are neighbours, Lauréanne is saddened to see little Loutfia manipulate her mother, blinded by the child. It is true, however, that the little girl is endearing, intelligent and has an implacable will, which asserts itself as she grows older.
As a teenager, Loutfia is interested in her father's origins and in the great turmoil that agitates the Muslim world since the attacks of September 11, 2001. And it is she who, in turn, will flee the quiet life that awaits her.
With all the impetuosity of youth, she travels to the borders of Turkey and Syria to treat the victims of the Islamic State. Her mother is so shaken that Lauréanne becomes the strong woman of the duo, especially when things go wrong for Loutfia.
Despite some lengths at the beginning and end of the book, this statement hooks us. But there are two additional elements that distinguish this novel.
Nathalie Babin-Gagnon is a journalist, and it is with great relevance that she integrates social and political news into her story: Maple Spring, the attacks in France, the election of Donald Trump, even the negotiation of collective agreements! Her characters belong to a society and a moment in history, and are influenced by it – a happy way of telling!
In addition, she knows how to make plausible Lauréanne's contradictory feelings towards Marie . It's neither mean nor hypocritical, just deeply human.
And therein lies the author's gentleness: in her way of conveying concern and anger, then putting them down rather than ruining everything.