Skip Navigation

Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Book cover for The Hope in Leaving
Book cover for The Hope in LeavingBook cover for The Hope in Leaving

“If you appreciate Mary Karr and Jeannette Walls, you’ll want to read Williams’s eloquent memoir of growing up in and out of the harsh lumber camps of British Columbia.”—Jane Fonda

On the day she is leaving town to escape her troubled family and to start over at twenty-four—she finds a note on her mother’s door. Her brother has shot himself. In stories that face reality so squarely they express what usually goes unsaid—from exhilaration to despair--Barbara Williams remembers her childhood leading up to this moment. Her father is a logger, nomad, and born dreamer. Her mother has too many kids and never enough money to support or protect them. The family keeps on the move, shedding a grand total of twenty-seven homes. 

Williams remembers having one hope as a child, “the hope in leaving and doing better next time.” But poverty, mental illness, substances abuse, and injustice pursued them wherever they went. They lived smalltown life hard and suffered, most of all her brother—the fearless star of their childhood adventures and misadventures. Williams writes, “We grew up like wild animals with the wrong set of instincts for our environment.” It might be said it’s a miracle she survived to bring us these stories in The Hope in Leaving. In doing so, Williams proves there is one thing that can survive the worst of life and even death: love without judgment.

Book cover for The Hope in Leaving
Book cover for The Hope in LeavingBook cover for The Hope in Leaving

Buying options

“The Hope in Leaving is an incredibly powerful offering, delivered with rare grace and strength given its painful subject matter. With it, Williams has proven the most powerful storytelling is that which trusts readers to feel its impact without instruction, and find meaning without guidance.”

“Authentic. Human. Unselfconscious. Beautifully crafted. The Hope in Leaving is a jewel of a book.”

“Searingly honest, the book is a testimony to one woman's resilience and ability to love in the face of unimaginable hardship. An unsentimentally candid memoir of hope and determination.”

“Barbara Williams is the daughter of wanderlust. She grew up in logging camps, skid roads, and temporary homes on Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia. Her father was ‘Handsome Jack,’ the man who danced on tree-tops and was always saying goodbye. Indeed this is a book of leavings and disappearances where home is little more than a random path within the epic immensity and sorrow of the Pacific Northwest. In exquisite prose, always wary of self-pity, she tells the story of a brotherhood of semi-nomadic forest workers, their dangerous jobs and shattered families. The genre is deceptive: imagine a 'coming of age story' but written by John Steinbeck.”

“Barbara Williams has written a breathtaking, ruthlessly poetic coming of stage; a memoir that reads more like a hardscrabble book of common prayer. Hope In Leaving is a born writer's pure and savage plainsong, a ghost dance summoning family, hope, endurance, and the transcendence of love.”

“If you appreciate Mary Karr and Jeannette Walls, you'll want to read Williams's eloquent memoir of growing up in and out of the harsh lumber camps of British Columbia. In an honest, compelling voice devoid of self-pity, she tells of finding solace in nature's beauty, of grasping for shards of love. Through this painful, riveting journey, the bright, curious child manages to grow into a resilient, hopeful artist.”

Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams is a Canadian musician and actress. Early in her career, Williams starred in the films Thief of Hearts and City of Hope. She won a Canadian Emmy Award for Best Actress for the telepic Mother Trucker. She was a member of the Resident Theatre Company in Vancouver, and among her more than thirty stage roles, she portrayed Amelia Earhart in the musical Amelia at Canada's National Arts Center, Joan Baez at the Met Theatre in Los Angeles, and Lady Macbeth in La Jolla, California, under Tony Award winner Des McAnuff's direction. As a musician she has performed in the United States and Canada, often in concerts devoted to peace, workers' rights, and the environment. The Hope in Leaving is her first book. She lives and works in Los Angeles with her husband, Tom Hayden, and her son, Liam.