Today, almost two decades after her death, Margaret Laurence remains one of Canada's best-known and most beloved writers. Twice winner of the Governor General's Award for fiction, she was, as the late William French wrote, "more profoundly admired than any other Canadian novelist of her generation.
Lyall Powers is both a respected scholar of literature and a lifelong friend of Laurence's, having met her when they were students together at Winnipeg's United College in the 1940s. Alien Heart is the first full-length biography of Margaret that combines personal knowledge and insights about Laurence with a study of her work, which often paralleled the events and concerns in her own life.
Drawing on letters, personal correspondence, journals, and interviews, Lyall Powers discusses the struggles and triumphs Laurence experienced in her efforts to understand herself in the roles of writer, wife, mother, and public figure. He portrays a deeply compassionate and courageous woman, who yet felt troubled by conflicting demands. While Laurence's work is not directly autobiographical, Powers illustrates how her writing expressed many of the same dilemmas, and how the resolution her characters achieved in the novels and stories had an impact on Laurence's own life. Powers provides an in-depth analysis of all Laurence's work, including the early African essays, fiction, and translations, and her books for children, as well as the beloved Manawaka fiction. The study clearly shows the progression and expression of Laurence as a writer of great humanity and conscience.