Annette Lapointe’s novel … And This Is the Cure wastes no time in drawing its readers into the immediacy of its narrative.
Allison Winter, radio/podcast celebrity with the Public Broadcasting Corporation and curator of cutting-edge talent and punk trends, arrives in Winnipeg from Toronto in response to a grisly family tragedy involving her estranged 11-year-old daughter, Hanna. Claudia and Ethan, Hanna’s adoptive parents, were murdered by Claudia’s son who then took his own life – all while Hanna was in the basement listening to music on her headphones.
The novel unfolds as Allison and Hanna learn to become mother and daughter and make room for each other’s lives in a process more crucible than conciliation.
Annette Lapointe, a Giller Prize nominee for her first novel Stolen in 2006, shares her inspiration for writing …And This Is the Cure. “I began with the vision of a pre-teen or teenager judging me. I don’t have kids (just nieces and nephews), so I haven’t been through this, but I could suddenly hear a girl of about 12 telling me that I was embarrassing.
“As someone who’s deeply self-conscious but aspires to be cool, I was cut to the quick by this imaginary girl. That led me to imagine what it would be like to begin parenting a decade or more into the child’s life – how that would be different from other kinds of parenting.”
Lapointe hopes that readers will begin to understand that the idea of a “bad mother” is complicated. So is “unlikeable woman.” She says, “Allison is a difficult person in a lot of ways, but she’s had to create herself more or less by herself, and she does try to be ‘good.’”
Winnipeg also served as inspiration. “It takes me a long time to learn a city well enough to try writing about it,” says Lapointe. “I started writing …And This Is the Cure just about the time I moved away from Winnipeg (I got an academic job, so I had to go). I missed the city terribly, and I was surprised how much it had felt like home. I wanted to capture what it was like to be there. I got a real kick out of Winnipeg.”
As for literary inspiration, Lapointe counts Miriam Toews’s Summer of My Amazing Luck as a favourite. “I adore her books, and she’s really the author I studied to know how to write about Winnipeg.”
While Lapointe thinks the book will ring true for people who know Winnipeg and who have experienced the punk scene and a life “dealing with conservative family while imagining yourself as a sophisticated, cultured person,” she would be equally delighted if a reader with a completely different background told her that they’d liked the book.
“I hope [readers] think at least parts of it are funny,” she says. “Obviously, much of the book is dark, but I tried to have it carry a comic thread – the idea that everything will be alright in the end, so if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.”