Photos: Circle of chairs (Martin Barraud/Getty Images); Hey, Good Luck Out There; Author Georgia Toews (Mark Boucher)
Hey, Good Luck Out There
Georgia Toews’ debut novel about a young woman struggling with alcohol addiction and recovery was inspired by the women she met in rehab / BY Dene Moore / May 27th, 2022
When Georgia Toews was writing her debut novel, she told people it was a work of science fiction. Hey, Good Luck Out There is, in fact, about one young woman’s journey through alcohol addiction and recovery, a fictional work inspired by Toews’ own experience in rehab.
“I wasn’t very confident telling people about the subject matter, because I assumed there would be a stigma and assumptions, even though it was fiction,” says the first-time author, who is a mother of two and the daughter of award-winning Canadian writer Miriam Toews.
The darkly comic novel centres around 22-year-old Bobbi, who is checked into a 30-day rehabilitation program following an awkward intervention by her dysfunctional family. The first part takes place in “the program,” where Bobbi opens up more in her hot-pink journal than she does to the other women in the group. The second part deals with Bobbi’s precarious return to the real world, where – with little money and no job – she fights to stay sober every day.
“It’s really a book about what it is to be a young woman struggling with everything, with just being a human being … in this unforgiving world, and what that means to be out on your own, to love yourself, to find love,” says the 32-year-old writer in an interview from her home in Toronto.
She is clear that the book does not mirror her personal story, but was inspired by the women she met on her journey to sobriety. “I’m opening that conversation and trying to put more humanness back into how we view people suffering with alcoholism and addiction, especially women going through that,” she says. “I think a lot of the stories sometimes sensationalize addiction, the withdrawals and the shaking and the tremors, and I really wanted to focus on the work afterwards, and living with and within recovery.”
Although fictional, Toews admits it was sometimes difficult to write a story that hit so close to home.
“There were a lot of times I just kind of had to step away from the computer,” she says. “I had to figure out that rhythm of getting into it and then getting out and separating myself from the story, from my life.”
The book is dedicated to her mom, Miriam, the author of eight bestselling novels and one work of non-fiction, including A Complicated Kindness, which won the 2004 Governor General’s Award for English fiction; The Flying Troutmans, which won the 2008 Rogers Writer’s Trust Fiction Prize; and All My Puny Sorrows, which won the 2014 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. It was her mother, Toews says, who encouraged her to go into rehab in her early 20s and taught her that a person can process things through writing. She has been both inspiration and saviour.
“She’s saved my life and continues to,” she says. “There would be no story without her, because I would have never gone to rehab.”
Toews did not plan on following in her mother’s footsteps. She’s been a bartender and an actor, and narrated the audiobook of Miriam’s most recent novel, Fight Night, as well as the audiobook for Hey, Good Luck Out There. After trying to write the story as a screenplay, she realized that a novel was the only way to explore the deeply internal journey from addiction to recovery.
Growing up, Toews knew her mother was a successful author, but they didn’t talk about her career.
“She’s just been such a mom to me. Obviously, I’m so proud of her … but I don’t know anything from the book side. I would see her work at the kitchen table – since I was a kid, that’s where she works – and she just gets it done and it turns out to be this beautiful thing,” she says. “But we never really go into her process or talk writing, really. We just talk about my kids, her grandkids. She’s a fantastic mother and I’ve just always known her as that, first and foremost.”
Toews says her husband and her mother were very supportive when she began writing. When she sent her mother the first draft, she responded partly in mom mode.
“She was very kind, as opposed to maybe if I showed it to a creative writing teacher or something,” says Toews with a laugh. “She tells me the same thing all the time … you just have to write as honestly as you can, and I really took that to heart. I’ve seen how she works, taking things from her own life and really putting them in there. I had to lean into that and take her process as inspiration… writing honestly and grounding it in in truth, even though it’s fiction.”
The mother of an 11-month-old and a soon-to-be four-year-old, Toews is looking forward to releasing the book into the world – especially if it involves a break from home life.
“I was having a conversation with my publicist, and he was asking, ‘Are you okay to travel for a night or two?’ This was when my infant was just not sleeping at all, and I was like, ‘Oh, you want to send me somewhere away for a night? Yes. Anywhere.’”