After many years of writing novels filled with riveting fiction, Canadian author Angie Abdou is returning to memoir once again with the upcoming release of her new book, This One Wild Life.
The new novel will be Abdou’s second foray into the personal realm of memoir, following her 2018 work Home Ice: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom, which centres on the time she spent with her son following the minor hockey circuit.
Set to release in the spring, This One Wild Life tells the story of the summer that Abdou and her nine-year-old daughter pledged to hike “a peak a week” in the picturesque mountains surrounding their home of Fernie, B.C., as a mother-daughter bonding quest.
For those who know Abdou’s previous memoir, This One Wild Life is both a partner to her mother-son story and also a continuation of the story with an entirely new perspective — as the lofty summer goal came about after Abdou realized her daughter had developed a serious shyness she hadn’t noticed while busy with her son’s hockey.
“It was a surprise to me, and I had the feeling I needed to spend more time with her and work on her confidence, and it turnout out she liked hiking, so I said, ‘let’s make a goal,” said Abdou. “So, the book follows the progress of that summer, which doesn’t go exactly as I expect, but there’s lots of adventure and excitement and contemplation.”
In addition to her own exploratory narrative in This One Wild Life, Abdou also dives into the topics of young girls and confidence, mother-daughter relationships and the effects of leaving behind the online world to spend more time outdoors.
Returning to memoir felt very natural, said Abdou, who was originally drawn to the genre while teaching a creative nonfiction course a few years ago.
It spurred the inspiration for Home Ice and had Abdou reading a lot of other author’s memoirs, which led to plenty of reasons to continue exploring with a second non-fiction book — the first being to write a mother-daughter companion novel for her mother-son novel, and the second being the feeling that she’s not quite done with the genre.
“That’s the personal reason, but I also feel like we’re in this really weird time right now [where] life is stranger than fiction,” said Abdou. “I’m not really even sure how to address the lessons we’ve learned over the last couple of years, I think that’s going to take some processing, and I just really appreciate, when I read memoir, the honesty and vulnerability.”
Making the change from fiction writing to memoir has been interesting for Abdou, she said, but not necessarily difficult.
“What I’m always trying to do, in fiction too, is talk really truthfully about what it’s like to be alive and work through things I’m currently finding challenging, so as a writer I made the shift very easily,” said Abdou. “I feel like this book is different from my other books, more quiet and contemplative, in a way, [and] that’s how it felt writing it. It felt restorative.”
The biggest challenge has been navigating responses and criticism, said Abdou, especially as both Home Ice and This One Wild Life offer a very personal glimpse into her life and her family.
But Abdou is hoping that readers will be able to emerge from her personal experience with the same lesson she herself learned, which shines through as the message in This One Wild Life.
“I think what I learned myself is to sometimes follow, as a parent, instead of lead and not feel like I need to control everything and impose meaning and structure on everything,” said Abdou. “Sometimes it's better to take a few deep breaths and sit back and watch, and then follow the child's lead, [and] see what emerges through your kid’s passions.”
She also feels the novel’s focus on reconnecting with nature and family is a message uniquely and unintentionally suited to the present, with the unforeseen circumstances of the pandemic touching so many lives.
“I didn’t, obviously, write this book for COVID because I hadn’t even heard of it when I was writing, but it's really a book about connecting with nature and hunkering down with your family, just really drawing a circle around what’s valuable and important and simple, and those messages are so relevant in 2020,” said Abdou.
This One Wild Life will be hitting shelves in April, and Abdou is really looking forward to the release — which will be followed very closely with an appearance at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words in July, as one of the event’s featured guest authors.
The Festival will be one of the earliest events after the new book’s release and the first in Saskatchewan, so Abdou — who hails from Moose Jaw and still has a soft spot for her hometown prairie city — is excited to be returning.
“This book means a lot to me. It’s the most I’ve ever enjoyed researching and writing a book [and] I did it from a really personal place and I feel like I grew as a human being while I was writing it,” said Abdou. “So it does mean a lot to me to be able to launch it at home in Moose Jaw.”
Abdou is hoping to be attending an in-person Festival this year, after moonlighting as a session moderator during the virtual Festival this past summer, but she is nonetheless looking forward to the event regardless of venue.
“I’m always excited to come home and I think [the Festival of Words] has become as good as any festival in Canada, I think they do a wonderful job,” said Abdou. “I’m very excited.”