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Illustration by Ashley Floréal

Toward the conclusion of their first date (dinner, ice cream, karaoke and more), Justin Trudeau told Sophie Grégoire, before driving her back to her place, “I’m 31 years old. I’ve been waiting for you for 31 years. Should we skip the girlfriend phase and start with fiancée?”

Grégoire Trudeau – they married, of course, and announced their separation last August – shares this story in Closer Together: Knowing Ourselves, Loving Each Other. The book, out April 23, mixes spirituality-infused self-help and inspiration for the mind and body with personal memoir.

“My truth is that I’m reaching out to you, in my late 40s, as a mother of three, a woman, a friend, a partner, a sister, and a trustworthy, vulnerable and courageous ally,” she writes in the introduction. “I want us to take steps and risks together, on our parallel path, so we can find our light-filled purpose.”

She consults with experts along the way, including Gabor Maté, Gordon Neufeld, Mark Tewksbury and Jewel. “I’m a continuous, curious, emotional adventurer and explorer of life and relationships,” she told The Globe and Mail during a recent video interview. “I’ve always been curious and interested and fascinated by human contact.”

That contact, she believes, is a key to happiness. And with all she’s learned, she says in the interview, she figured, “Hey, wait a second. I’ve been going through so much. What’s the point of living a life if you don’t share your own experiences that enrich your life?” And so, the book.

Don’t expect much oversharing, though. If anyone is picking up Closer Together hoping to learn a bunch of juicy details about her separation from the Prime Minister, forget it.

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Readers will, however, learn something about their approach to co-parenting. Grégoire Trudeau refers to this stage in her marriage as a “restructuring.” The book includes happy photos of them as a couple and a family – with children Xavier, now 16; Ella-Grace, 15; and Hadrien, 10. And she writes about Trudeau with obvious affection and care: “Even though we are no longer a couple, I know our shared sense of humour will always help us weather the storms.”

Grégoire Trudeau, an only child, was raised in Sainte-Adèle, Que., until the family moved to Montreal when she was 4. At school, she was a diligent student, loved gym, loved boys. She also developed an eating disorder, which she writes about. As an adult, she is still athletic and adventurous; she surfs, scuba dives with sharks, learned to do the splits in her 30s and still does them. She cries easily, loves to dance and, she writes, is a passionate lover.

Over Zoom, she speaks with contagious enthusiasm, and a mile a minute. Her nickname, she reveals in the book, used to be La Tornade – the tornado.

The book offers some tidbits about Trudeau as well: It takes him, on average, about three minutes to fall asleep. He has deliberately fallen down ski hills and flights of stairs, just to make Grégoire Trudeau laugh.

For readers wondering what happened between the two of them, it’s tempting to read between the lines in some of what she writes. For instance: “We all tend to hold on to what we are used to. Think about a habit, a relationship, a job, even a favourite pair of shoes. Sometimes we fear that if we step out of our comfort zone, we won’t find that same comfort anywhere else. Or maybe we’re worried that we’ll somehow fail, feel alone, or feel uncertain if we change. But the truth is that we can grow in positive ways when we embrace change, and especially when we let go of things that are holding us back.”

When I ask if she has advice for anyone facing change, she says: “I’ve had my own fair share of lessons of uncertainty. And I had many choices. I had a couple of choices in front of me and all of them came at a cost. So, like, this one, this one, or that one? Ouch. They’re all going to hurt, right? Too bad, man, too bad. I have to choose. And it’s going to hurt and I’m not going to, you know, disappear or dissolve because of it. Quite the opposite.”

I suggest to her that people are going to read that and think about her marriage. “Or their marriage,” she interjects.

She began writing the book before the separation, she says, finding time in her busy schedule by creating boundaries and sticking to them.

One might see some irony in a woman going through a high-profile marital split writing a book called Closer Together. But Grégoire Trudeau believes close relationships are essential to inner happiness – and not just romantic relationships. That may include former romantic partners who have become co-parents. She is trying to offer a different way to navigate a separation.

“It tells a lot about a person how you restructure a relationship,” she says in the interview.

I ask about her reference to herself as a “partner” in the introduction; was she referring to Trudeau, or has she moved on?

“No, that’s, so, you know, I’m still figuring it all out,” she responds. “I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think I ever will have all the answers and that is not the goal. I’m embracing uncertainty, but I do know that I have an ally in Justin and I will always, and he will always have in me.”

“We don’t know what life has in store,” she continues. “Let’s just take it day by day and trust that if we live with cohesion and congruence and emotional integrity, we get the answers. Maybe not all of them and that’s fine. But life answers back when you listen deeply and when you’re patient.”

Was she worried about the vulnerability of writing so personal a book, especially being in such a high-profile marriage, I ask. “You’re vulnerable throughout a relationship, which we are and which we were and we still are. I’m proud of the bond and the relationship that I have with my partner,” she says, meaning Trudeau.

“It makes me emotional. I’m proud that my children are seeing us navigate our conflicts” – she corrects herself – “not conflicts, our evolution, and this concept of love where we think that we possess the other. Sometimes life teaches us that by letting go, we free ourselves and we free the people we love. It’s not the formula that we wanted, uh-uh, and it hurts a lot. And we don’t have to break and end and kill relationships in order to restructure them.”

The separation aside, the family has been through a lot. There have been death threats, they’ve seen people driving around with those crass anti-Trudeau signs. Grégoire Trudeau writes about being in a doctor’s waiting room with her daughter when a patient walked in and angrily told the receptionist, “I’m here because of my cold, the Trudeau cold.” Conducting live interviews on Instagram, Grégoire Trudeau has seen hateful comments flash onscreen. “If I was married to her, I’d tell her to get breast implants,” one read.

She writes about parenting in the social-media age, with unrealistic and unhealthy lifestyles modelled online. “We’re in self-betrayal mode so much,” she says in the interview. “We’re taught to hate ourselves. We’re taught to not age, we’re taught to … be anything but us. Not the right weight, not the right eyelashes, not the right hair, not the right teeth, not the right cheeks, not the right genitals.”

She continues at tornado speed, saying she refuses to accept this “self-betrayal” becoming ingrained in daily life. The world needs us to be authentic, she says. “And I’m going to fight until my last breath so that human beings have the capacity to be their creative selves and don’t have to swallow this message of inauthentic being.”

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