A family murder-suicide, a child custody battle, a workplace sexual assault scandal, an escape from a remote religious compound, and a punk band’s reunion tour through Japan: each of these could have been a novel plot unto itself, but former Winnipeg author (now of Grande Prairie, Alta.) Annette Lapointe manages to weave them all into her compelling and fast-paced third novel …And This Is The Cure.

A family murder-suicide, a child custody battle, a workplace sexual assault scandal, an escape from a remote religious compound, and a punk band’s reunion tour through Japan: each of these could have been a novel plot unto itself, but former Winnipeg author (now of Grande Prairie, Alta.) Annette Lapointe manages to weave them all into her compelling and fast-paced third novel …And This Is The Cure.

After the more experimental bent of her story collection You Are Not Needed Now, Lapointe returns to the longer novel form. While perhaps not as gruesome as her previous novel Whitetail Shooting Gallery, her latest does have a dark and unsettling undercurrent, only pushing above the surface in short but powerful bursts.

Former frontwoman for the riot grrrrrl band The Innocents, Allison Winter lives in Toronto and is the host of public radio pop-culture show The Cure. But even before the success of the band, Allison had some notoriety as a former child bride who had escaped from an isolated religious community in rural Manitoba.

After walking out of the remote community on foot and telling the police that her parents were forcing to get married at 15, Allison effectively cuts herself off from the rest of her family. She does have one remaining connection to that community, though — she and Ethan, who she did not marry at 15 — have an 11-year-old daughter named Hannah. Ethan, his new wife, her son from a previous marriage and Hannah live in Winnipeg. After Ethan and his wife are murdered, Allison must take Hannah in, or lose her to Ethan’s ultra-religious parents.

The opening chapters Lapointe’s novel are a whirlwind of information, and can be disorienting. This fits perfectly with Allison’s experience, and lends some of her confusion and urgency to the reader, but it can also be difficult to discern important details relating to the family drama and all the intricate connections between characters.

Soon after arriving in Winnipeg to care for Hannah and make arrangements for settling Ethan’s estate, his parents sue for custody of Hannah, and Allison quickly brings her daughter back to Toronto to keep her out of the grasp of Ethan’s parents. Allison’s day-to-day life is not at all suited for raising an 11 year-old, and the two are soon at odds, neither mother nor daughter fully processing the trauma of the murders or even coming to terms with the new lives that have been thrust upon them.

The main plot moves fast, advancing quickly from the few days that Allison spends in Winnipeg, to her and Hannah’s struggles to find new balance in Toronto, to the re-emergence of Allison’s bandmates who try to talk her into doing a tour of Japan, and more — though listing anything else would verge into spoiler territory. At the same time, Allison has an incredibly rich backstory even over and above the escape from the religious community.

Within all of these plot threads, there is more than what appears on the surface, and Lapointe’s ability to plot such a complex narrative but also imbue so many different elements with thematic resonance is to be commended. This is the kind of novel that pulls the reader forward with an exciting plot, but also rewards a second reading with surprising and intricate insights.

A deftly plotted and executed novel, …And This Is The Cure continues to advance Annette Lapointe’s already impressive literary career.

Keith Cadieux is a Winnipeg writer and editor.