What We Once Believed

Andrea MacPherson

Summer, 1971. While women demand equality, protests erupt over the Vietnam War, and peace activists march, adolescent Maybe Collins’ life in quiet Oak Bay is upended by the appearance of her mother, who disappeared nine years earlier.

And with her return comes another surprise: she’s written a best-selling memoir called The Other Mother, about motherhood and Women’s Liberation, which gives only passing reference to Maybe’s existence. Camille, now an acclaimed author, is distant and confounding, and Maybe tries to piece together her mother’s life–why she left, the truth behind her famous memoir, and the future of their fractured relationship.

As Maybe searches for her place, so do the other women in her life: her independent and unchangeable grandmother, Gigi; her best friend’s mother, Robin, who struggles with her roles as wife and stay-at-home mother; and Mary Quinn, a successful artist new to Lear Street, who seems to live only by her own rules. Their stories and struggles define how Maybe sees her choices as a woman, and how she’ll navigate a world that is dramatically shifting every day.

But when Maybe discovers that her mother is writing another book–a book about her return–the betrayal is fierce and painful, and Maybe resolves to teach Camille a lesson that will change them all forever.

“Andrea MacPherson’s new book, What We Once Believed, is a beautifully rendered novel that untangles the lives of Maybe, a girl on the brink of adolescence, and the women who surround her. Set in the 1970s, Maybe, along with her mother, grandmother and neighbours, struggles with political change, intimacy and the great, wide open future. With a sharp eye for detail and daily hypocrisies, Andrea has written a deeply complex story of women on the social, geographic and emotional edge.”
— Jen Sookfong Lee, author of The Conjoined

“An apt snapshot of a multi-generational group of women – Bechdel-test approved – struggling to heal from life’s inevitable traumas, What We Once Believed is a beautiful summer read.”
Quill & Quire

“MacPherson is clearly a poet, and her lyricism makes for engaging prose…”
— Rachel Carlson, The Winnipeg Review

“MacPherson’s writing is impeccable. Her metaphors and images are beautiful and, I suspect, will ring true for many women readers…”
—Rachel Edmonds, Understorey Magazine