Abra (1978) Joan Barfoot’s first book, later reissued in Britain as Gaining Ground (1980), won the Books in Canada First Novel Award. Dealing with the betrayals of domesticity, it shows the female protagonist searching for an identity separate from that of her husband and family. Although conditioned to be dependent, and even though nothing is more frightening than freedom and uncertainty, Abra nevertheless flees a world in which her sole function seems to be circumscribed by a socially constructed role of wife and mother.
Leaving the suburban security of husband and children, she goes to live in an isolated cabin, free from human contact, clocks and mirrors. Through a chosen life of self-sufficiency and the immediacy of living in close contact with nature, Abra gains physical strength and sharpened senses. Once deeply in touch with herself, she is ready and able to re-evaluate her life and account for her actions when her daughter tracks her down. In this women-centered fiction, Barfoot, in realistic and intense detail, shows the protagonist’s achievement of the inner peace and strength that formerly eluded her.