Once upon a time, lesbian feminism exerted such a strong pull that many married women fell in love with other women and felt compelled to leave their husbands, and sometimes their children. Leaving Now is the tale of one woman who left her husband and, constricted by the mores of the time, also her two sons.
"It was a Saturday. An ordinary day--but with a suitcase in it." Not that this was an easy step. "First and second principles. First principle: how could I stay? Second principle: how could I not?"
This is the second novel by Arleen Pare, the talented author of the award-winning Paper Trail. In both books, Pare deftly brings scholarship into creative intimacy with multi-layered literary forms and deep emotional exploration. Paper Trail features a narrator struggling to survive her job in a stifling bureaucracy. Fittingly, Franz Kafka is one of the characters. In Leaving Now, Hansel and Gretel's mother, Gudrun, becomes the narrator's spirit guide. "You are about to enter the other side of fairytale, she tells me .... You're not the first. Fairytales teem with the absence of mothers...."
The unnamed narrator obsessively analyzes, agonizes, tears herself inside out trying to balance what she knows, what she feels and fears, what she can live with and live without. She tells the tale many years later, never seeking refuge in glib platitudes about everything working out for the best.
Leaving Now is sometimes harrowing, occasionally funny, often heartbreaking and always engrossing. Pare's distinctive style artfully mixes poetry, personal journal, feminist socio-political analysis and literary analysis of fairy tales. You can read the book with pleasure for its overall cleverness, for its emotional depth, for its poetry or for its settings in Montreal and Vancouver. You can read it as a heroic quest by the narrator to integrate personal truths within their historical moments and the literary traditions by which we try to understand our lives. Just read it.