Thursday, October 15, 2015

Make Room for Ruth

by Giselle Renarde

I can't believe this email.

It kind of makes me sad, but sad for him. Compassionately sad.

I've told you many times about my ex, not only because I spent 10 years of my life with him, but because it's kind of an interesting story (depending on your definition of "interesting," I guess): he was my teacher in high school, he was married...

You know that part. If you've read Audrey and Lawrence or Like it's 1999, you know all the intimate details. Audrey and Lawrence is fictionalized. Like it's 1999 isn't.
And I think I also mentioned this novel I wrote, The Other Side of Ruth, which is a companion piece to Audrey and Lawrence. Not a sequel. The two narratives are happening concurrently. Audrey and Lawrence is the story of Lawrence's affair with me. The Other Side of Ruth is the story of his wife's affair with a neighbour girl, Agnes.

(Hey, both A names. I seriously just noticed that. Oh, I'm hilarious.)

In real life, I have no idea if Lawrence's wife is secretly a lesbian, as I've portrayed her. He used to tell me they hadn't has sex in over a decade, they just didn't DO that. He was full of misery and longing. I knew that because I saw it first hand. But his wife? The real-life Ruth? I don't know.

I always made up stories about her, to assuage my guilt. I told myself Ruth wasn't attracted to her husband, which made it okay that I was. She wasn't sleeping with him, so that excused my behaviour.

Lawrence and I were still a "couple" when I started writing the short stories about our affair. After we called it quits, I became increasingly fascinated by the IDEA of his wife. They seemed to share this very stiff-upper-lip unspoken unhappiness, which fascinated me--me, who would lash out in anger or impatience at the slightest provocation. I couldn't imagine being quietly hopeless together with someone else, for decades. Decades! Although, I'm sure it's quite common.
That's why I think/hope my book The Other Side of Ruth might speak to readers in a way some of my other books don't. I started writing this novel in 2010, a few years after Lawrence and I broke up. In a strange way, The Other Side of Ruth is my gift to her. Ugh, that sounds super-narcissistic, but I loved creating a new relationship for Ruth, where she could find herself attracted to a younger woman (me?) who initiated the kind of sexual encounters Ruth had never dreamed of (with me?).

I'm not saying this book is a romance. It's NOT. Ruth experiences the emotional roller coaster of falling for a girl with [under/un/mis]diagnosed mental health issues, but instead of *SPOILER ALERT* coming out as the hero (which she's totally equipped to do, as a high school guidance counselor), Ruth fails hard. She fails so hard, guys.

But that's what makes Ruth a person, and that's what makes this book litfic with erotic content rather than erotic romance. I guess it's up to you to decide whether this book has a happy ending... or not. I think it does. For Ruth. Still, the resolution is not one that would satisfy most romance readers. But I actually suspect (don't throw things!) that lesbians are more popular with the litfic crowd than the romance crowd (I said DON'T throw things!).

Oh. Right. Back to this email.
So, my ex and I went our separate ways about seven and a half years ago, when I met Sweet. Lawrence always said he had no right to demand exclusivity of me, considering he was married, so I was honest about the whole falling in love with someone else situation.

He... didn't handle it so well. In all the (10!) years we'd been together, he'd never been verbally abusive toward me, but he was then. And pffft! you think I'm gonna put up with that?

"I have no right to demand exclusivity" isn't the same as "I'm open to pursuing thoughtful non-monogamy in this relationship." Lesson learned.

So I walked away from that whole thing. Sweet and I have been together ever since.

But Lawrence... oh, Lawrence. He still sends me birthday cards, Christmas gifts. I made the mistake of sending a thank you email once, and he took that as "I want you back" which... sorry, dude. But he's not stalker-ish or intrusive, so I let it go.

He still sends emails to my Hotmail account, which I check about as often as anyone checks a Hotmail account (approx. once per year). When I opened that account today, I saw a note from him, sent just a few weeks ago.

It was sent the day before the Terry Fox run. He wanted me to meet him there. He wanted to see me, even... just SEE me, and talk, and walk. My guess is his wife bailed on him last-minute, but who knows?

To be honest, I'd rather walk with Ruth.
The Other Side of Ruth is now available in print. The ebook comes out Friday with eXcessica.

If you want to buy the paperback (and a lot of readers seem to, these days, especially when it comes to lesbian fiction), you can get it at Amazon:

BUT I just found out how to generate coupons at CreateSpace, so if you purchase directly from you can use Coupon Code AN5EWZTX for $5.00 off!

And if you want the ebook, it's just one more sleep!


  1. This sounds like a Greek tragedy that never ends (or at least keeps adding acts) as you work out variations and possibilities in your stories.

  2. I already have two of you books stacked up, Giselle... But I really do want to read this one. AND Audrey and Lawrence. Sigh. I haven't had time to read in three days.

    Your fascination with Ruth reminds me, a bit, of something in my own life. I think I've written here (though maybe before you joined--it all blurs these days) about meeting a guy when I first moved to California and being totally bowled over. I was sure he was The One. (He was the impetus for my trip to see my master, which I talked about in my Monday post.) Anyway, he would tell me about his old girlfriend Jeannie, with whom he'd had a torturous relationship. I somehow felt a connection with Jeannie, since we both loved this guy. I wrote poems about her. There was even one time when M. and I were making love that I had the sense that I *was* her. (Okay, so I was stoned...) Anyway, it was a weird emotional bond.

    In the end, he disappeared for a weekend (after we'd been together every night for two months). I found out when he returned that he'd gone off to Vegas to marry Jeannie.

    As I said, he really was Mr. Wrong. Took me a while to get over him, though.

  3. Good for you, taking the right fork in the road when you came to it. And, as a writer, perceiving an alternate possibility for the life of "Ruth."


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