A memoir of falling in love, the fallout of infidelity, and everything messy in between — and the inspiration behind the hit CBC podcast.
“Beautifully and powerfully written, Alone: A Love Story left me heartbroken and inspired at the same time. ” — Terry Fallis
“A lyrical tribute to the intoxicating, dramatic, destructive and ultimately empowering nature of love. ” — Anna Maria Tremonti
“Michelle Parise is the best company. Her passion and humour leap off the page. ” — Camilla Gibb
The church wedding, the new house, a beautiful baby … Michelle was sold a dream and bought into it. But one day, nine years in, she wakes up in an empty bed, and The Husband isn't there. Then, he drops The Bomb — he was having an affair with a woman at work.
Adrift and on the edge of forty — fuelled by grief, booze, and one-night stands — Michelle battles the monster she calls Loneliness, juggling being a part-time parent and part-time partier. Though dangerously close to rock bottom, Michelle takes a chance on love again with a dashing but complicated man — The Man with the White Shirt.
Michelle, an expert in "emotional forensics," dives into the wreckage with candour and humour, uncovering a story about falling in and out of love, divorce, single parenthood, and the messy world of dating. What she finds, beneath it all, is life and the courage to face it alone.
“Michelle Parise knows how to shape and deliver a story that will keep you coming back for more. ” — The Atlantic
Chapter One: Falling
So, here I am on the edge of thirty-nine. Petulant, drunk, and obsessed with a charming but frustrating man in a white shirt and perfect jeans. I‘m taking my one-millionth fancy cocktail, and stumbling down a hallway to go see a tarot card reader. My friends all rolled their eyes, but I like the idea of someone telling me who I am and what my path is based on randomly turned up cards. Because seriously? Fucked if I know these days.
The Man with the White Shirt is mingling so excellently and effortlessly with my friends. His smile and those dark eyes and that body in those jeans —God, it hurts to look at him too long. He‘s so handsome I can hardly stand it sometimes, and whenever he‘s around everything softens in me. Usually. Tonight I‘m all edges. I‘m being a bit rude to him even. I‘ll tell you why later, stick with me.
Right now, I‘m stumbling down the hallway to see the tarot card reader. She‘s, like, twenty-five, max, and drinking a gigantic glass of red wine. She locks the door and it‘s quiet and all fortune teller-y in this closet we‘re in. I‘m drinking my strong fancy French cocktail as she shuffles the cards and thinking about how this is going to be such bullshit, but it‘s my birthday so fun! fun! And then she turns over the first card.
LOSS. It says loss.
More cards come and it‘s like they are shouting at me. FEAR. FUTILITY. What. The. Fuck.
They may as well say Your husband cheated on you and Now you think no one can love you.
“You used to know exactly who you were,” she says. “You were stable, confident. But now you have a veil of uncertainty over you. That‘s because you‘re being tested. To help you figure out how you say yes to things, and how you say no. ”
Whoa. How I say yes to things, how I say no. Not if. How. It‘s as if she‘s telling me I have choices. Some control over my life. I know that probably seems obvious to you, but right now? In this year? In this bar? This is news. This bullshit card reading has suddenly become really fucking real.
I return to my friends and try to be cheerful. White Shirt is there to greet me, all gorgeous and sweet. He‘s searching my eyes for a sign, but I just say, “It was fun! She said freaky things!” Inside I think, Fuck, why can‘t this real thing he says he feels for me be real enough?
I wake up the next morning in his bed, my head bashed in by booze I don‘t even know the name of. My veins filled with lead instead of blood. Hungover. Massively. It‘s my thirty-ninth birthday. I look at White Shirt as he lies sleeping, and I already feel far away. How did I get here? I used to be married, for God‘s sake! What happened to my life, to love?
I wonder this all the time now.
It‘s 1999. I‘m twenty-four years old and living an artsy city-girl‘s life. I work all day in public radio and spend my free time in used bookstores and going to see bands. Every Wednesday night you‘ll find me and my friends here in this bar, before we head out to a well-known dive for dancing. They all drink and party and stay in school forever, but not me. I rarely drink, and certainly don‘t drink to get drunk. I‘m not being pious, I just love to experience life, and I feel like I‘d be missing out if I put a filter on it.
I also, with every part of me, love love. I mean, I love it! Being in love and falling in love and writing about love and singing about it and living it. I‘ve had one boyfriend after another since I was fifteen years old. All long, committed relationships. I haven‘t slept in a bed alone in years. Relationships are everything to me; I know no other way. I just love to get lost in another person, to learn everything about what interests them, to see what they see and feel what they feel.
And that‘s how it is with my boyfriend right now. We‘ve been together since I was nineteen. He‘s a musician, and four years older than me, and so intelligent and mystical that, probably out of youth or just abject insecurity, I defer to him on just about everything. I think he‘s so much better than me —he‘s read every book, he knows every song, he‘s knowledgeable on all subjects, every topic imaginable. He‘s an atheist, and a passionate altruist. He‘s a vegetarian, so of course now I am too. He‘s a devoted boyfriend, a real partner; we are honest and expressive and artistically inspired by one another. We have matching tattoos, because it‘s the nineties. It‘s been a perfect, symbiotic relationship. We say we‘ll be together forever.
But lately, things are different. The Musician has been talking about us having an open relationship. Like, open open. He thinks we‘re mature enough and secure enough to handle sleeping with other people while still maintaining our committed bond. I‘m less sure —a big part of me feels like true love doesn‘t want to be shared. But that seems old fashioned so I start to entertain the thought. Could I really do something like that?
The only guy I find even remotely interesting is this weird, brooding graduate student. A friend of a friend, who always seems to be around but doesn‘t exactly fit in. He‘s completely different than all the downtown artsy guys I know. A small-town boy, a scientist, here in the big city doing his master‘s degree. We‘ve never really talked, but I find him kind of cute. He‘s tall, with awful glasses and the worst long hair. But there‘s something about him. I kinda like that he gives zero fucks about what anyone thinks of him.
The Scientist drinks three pints of beer to every regular guy‘s one. He whistles to get the waitress‘s attention, which we all find mortifying. He sits with us, but doesn‘t really talk to anybody. He hasn‘t seen the latest Thomas Vinterberg film. I don‘t even think he reads books! You can tell he thinks we‘re all a bunch of big-city snobs, which of course we totally are. But he likes Top-40 music. And watches football. The Musician can‘t stand him, but I have been completely awakened from my elitist stupor by his very presence.
On this Wednesday in the bar, The Musician is holding court as he always does, orating on some political issue or another with everyone‘s rapt attention. Bored, I look across the table and find The Scientist just staring at me, his arched eyebrow indicating he thinks my boyfriend is a blowhard and also that he knows that deep down I agree. And so I smirk at him, and he smirks back, and this is all it takes for us to fall in love.
The storytelling is exemplary. The way the narrative unfolds, moving back and forth in time, conjures up the full scope of emotion — horror and anxiety and wonder and happiness. Parise's is a very particular story but in many ways it's universal and familiar. The thing I'm most struck by is the neat way she walks the tightrope between hope and despair, darkness and light.
Michelle Parise is remarkable at rendering the (nearly) universal human experience of deceit into a tightly woven tapestry of vulnerability, rawness, and humour, and while she’s doing it, makes you contemplate your inner life with more acceptance and compassion.
Michelle Parise’s story of love, betrayal, loss, and ultimately redemption, is filled with moments of grace, humour, pain, hope, and wisdom. Beautifully and powerfully written, Alone: A Love Story left me heartbroken and inspired at the same time.
This is a lyrical tribute to the intoxicating, dramatic, destructive and ultimately empowering nature of love. I could not stop reading Michelle’s story, and now I cannot stop thinking about it.
Dating, love, marriage, parenthood, and scrape-yourself-off-the-floor heartbreak is illuminated in Alone: A Love Story. Michelle takes us into the heart's dark corners with dark humour and deep honesty, pouring out her story like a funny, fierce friend who trusts you with everything. I don’t know anyone who won’t see themselves somewhere in this story (but be glad Michelle’s the one doing the telling). Ultimately, Alone: A Love Story gives us something we all want: to feel less alone.
Michelle Parise has turned us into confidantes, revealing her experiences of love, dating and divorce. Alone: A Love Story is equal parts pain and hope, served with a side of laughs — and we’re all wiser for it.
Gutsy, searingly honest, and full of heart, Michelle's beautiful memoir about mid-life fuckery reveals an exciting opportunity for self discovery amidst a wild unravelling.
For anyone who has had a marriage fall apart, Alone: A Love Story is a book to keep close. Parise is unflinching as she reports back from her broken heart and, as strange as this might seem, comforts by showing us the way from loneliness to standing tall . . . and alone.
Ardent, urgent, and honest, Parise’s wildly intimate voice reminds us that as long as we are feeling — feeling longing or loss, collapse or curiosity, the things that make us human — we are never really alone.
A courageous and full-throttled confessional. Michelle Parise has written a fierce and compassionate book about losing yourself to grief and then finding yourself again with humour and grace.
Alone: A Love Story is an emotional memoir of a life exploded — the end of a marriage, referred to as The Bomb — and the chaos that follows. But it's also about what blooms in the wreckage. Beautifully written, intimate, alive and accessible, the story flows like a conversation with your most interesting, wise and exciting friend.
Michelle Parise knows how to shape and deliver a story that will keep you coming back for more.
Parise took her story, one of pain, rage and ultimately hope, and decided to own it, to reframe it, to tell it to the world on her terms. Alone: A Love Story tells a unique, nuanced story of healing. We’ve seen enough stories about self-destructive ‘lost’ women. Parise explores the more real female narrative: we bleed but we’re masters at covering it up. Parise’s writing is addictively, heartbreakingly great. She will inspire you and she will devastate you, and you will be better for it.
Brave, resonant and oh so raw. In Alone: A Love Story Michelle turns her greatest shock into a story that lets you get close enough to feel its sting and understand its nuance. Her book doubles as a survival guide for when it’s your turn to rethink your relationship with love itself. Plus, Michelle Parise channels some seriously steamy Canadian Bridget Jones divorcee realness.
Michelle Parise is the best company. Her passion and humour leap off the page.