Inhaled: A Novel Based on a True Story by Nathalie Guilbeault

Inhaled was first published in 2018 as a “fictionalized memoir,” under the name Isabelle Duval, using the author’s middle name and her grandmother’s maiden name. In the Forward to this edition, the author explains, “when I first decided to publish Inhaled, my core, like a pillar made of shame, was weak, unable to keep me balanced. My pen name, my pseudo shield.”

Three years later, she was approached by Firenze Books, and during editing and review, the book emerged as “a novel based on a true story,” under the author’s name, Nathalie Guilbeault. She describes this transition as “a tiptoeing that has become a brisk walk.” (The Forward is a must-read section in this book.)

“Nathalie Guilbeault writes from inside experience and writes well.”

Inhaled tells the story of a woman who indulges in a weekend of revenge sex as her marriage is faltering. Somehow, she finds herself in a relationship that might be a living hell, but she is unable to break free. Her sometimes charismatic, sometimes unbalanced, lover invades her body, her mind, and every facet of her life. With uncanny instinct, he targets and penetrates the defining moments of her personal world. Travels and special family occasions are disrupted by non-stop messages, calls, and accusations. Yet he is also vulnerable, humble, and sweet at times, and his intense lovemaking awakens a need in Isabelle; breaking free is not easily done.

Isabelle, as the narrator, describes her marriage as a rapid decision probably based on a fear of being alone. This would be a natural fear for someone crushed emotionally by her mother, and whose being yearns for “a love that does not harm, like a parent once did.” Her husband’s infidelity, after her twenty-two loyal years, is devastating. Isabelle has given all for love, and she has trusted; now her love and trust have been betrayed.

When she meets Patrick, he does, after all, lavish her with attention. She returns to him, and they spend more time together until eventually, she becomes part of his somewhat dysfunctional family. Although she witnesses events and hears claims that are disturbing, she can rationalize these. Perhaps the reader will wonder why she does not see the truth, and leave him as other women past and, yes, present, do; the reader might marvel at her weakness.

If the victim could easily escape, however, they would not be a victim. The victim is emotionally prepared by life to be a receptacle for abuse. Guilbeault describes the struggles of Isabelle so well; she steps back sometimes and sees that she must leave, but then, she returns. On one level she recognizes the toxicity of her relationship with Patrick, and on another, she contemplates marriage.

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I note that Patrick seems to pursue her with more intensity than the others, but then, recognition of victimhood is an alarming characteristic of an abuser.

Carrie-Anne O’Driscoll, in her back cover review, describes the characters as “textbook”, and I fully agree. With a high level of accuracy, Guilbeault delivers the raw reality of her characters’ thoughts and actions – we see Isabelle’s struggle and bear witness to her powerlessness in every detail. We see the manipulations of Patrick, step by toxic step.

It takes courage to write truth, particularly personal truth, to admit to the struggle, and to share it intimately. “I needed to finally breathe properly… and not be inhaled, any longer, by ways I did not understand then, any may never fully, yet,” Isabelle declares. We live with Isabelle; we enter her mind and her heart. Nathalie Guilbeault writes from inside experience and writes well. Incident by incident, moment by moment, emotion by emotion, with honesty and objectivity, she tells the story of a journey to the depths and back. And perhaps, more than one person who needs to break free will recognize themselves and begin to rewrite their own story.

Cultural-economic struggle is real, but it does not justify abuse. Breaking free of abuse should be a simple walk, but it the journey of a lifetime. Read with eyes and mind open; there are lessons here, important life lessons. This psychological thriller is effective because it is so true to life. I highly recommend Inhaled, and as I read the conclusion, I am anticipating the sequel Mad Honey.

About the Author

Nathalie Guilbeault holds a Master in Management Sciences from Montreal’s Hautes Etudes Commerciales. A mother of two adults, living in Montreal with her partner Christian, the author is now working on Inhaled’s sequel, Mad Honey, set to appear at the end of 2022.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Firenze Books (May 30 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 434 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1777281067
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1777281069

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