Evelyne Michaut’s Memoir Rewrites Trauma into a Tour-de-Force

woman meditating

At the end of 2017, I lost my shitty job and a small miracle occurred. While I feverishly sent out resumes and heard nothing but crickets, a friend introduced me to a woman who had just finished a novel and was in need of an editor. Evelyne Michaut is a French-American mom of two kids living in the Bay Area. We clicked right away.

She was in the process of getting a divorce, her third, actually. Shy about this manuscript, she knew it was time to let some other eyes see it. I braced myself for first-time-writer syndrome, but I was happily surprised at how good she was. The novel was a spec-fiction book with a decidedly matriarchal flavor, but she was struggling with one character in the story – the antagonist.

Halfway through my first read, she contacted me and said, “I think I have to write the real story first.” Then she sent me a stripped down version of her memoir. And this was really where the motherload resided.

Watching Evelyne unfold this memoir was fascinating as a writer and editor, and excruciating as a woman. The Harvey Weinstein allegations had just surfaced, and the #MeToo movement popped like a boil. We had many conversations where we marveled at the timing.

Evelyne was in her 40s when she unearthed a deep gash of sexual trauma in her own background, a childhood scar so horrific that her brain had lovingly plunged the knowledge deep into her subconscious in order to protect her and keep her functioning. This trauma had informed her whole life without her knowing it, manifesting in physical pain and erratic romantic choices.

There was a truly astounding moment when we were discussing the abuse itself and we were trying to figure out how to bring the reader into it without forcing her to relive it gratuitously. I suggested she go back into her journals to see if anything surfaced. Sure enough, decades ago she had recounted dreams, bizarre sexual nightmares she’d had long before the awareness of the trauma surfaced. It was like her young adult mind was trying to tell her in the gentlest way possible, that the scar was still there, weeping.

I had never worked on a project like this before, and I thank God that we met often in real life and relied on video chat to discuss the work. I’d be thinking mechanically about how to best express something and see the expression on her face change. We would bring the conversation away from the text for a moment, and give her some deep breaths before continuing. She is also a very clear communicator who speaks the poetry of spirituality, and so while our metaphysics were very distinct, this gave us a common vocabulary to unpack the narrative.

What Evelyne did took incredible guts. She had to be unapologetic in telling the truth, and this meant saying some unpleasant things about some of the people close to her. She was also able to find humor in really dark places, poke a little fun at herself, “pushing into the cracks,” as Leanoard Cohen would put it.

I was so lucky to work on this book with Evelyne; she took some really fucking rotten lemons and made Beyoncé-grade lemonade. The Goddess Guide to Divorce: a Memoir comes out on Valentine’s Day as a gesture of self-love, and a signal to women and men that healing is the first courageous step in making love possible.

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