In Mothertrucker (Little A, Nov.), Butcher recounts her trip up to the most dangerous road in North America with the country's only woman ice trucker, Joy "Mothertrucker" Wiebe.
What was it like to finally meet Joy—a woman you’d only know through the filter of Instagram—in real life?
From the moment I met Joy I was immediately comforted by her presence. I want to think that says something about our connection. But from everybody I’ve talked to since her passing, that was sort of the connection that she shared with everyone, which I think speaks to her character as well.
A main motivation behind the book was to tell Joy’s story in the wake of her death, which happened four months after you both met. What do you want others to know most about her?
What drew me to Joy initially was the idea that she created a whole identity around this road that was unfathomably dangerous. For me that was thrilling, but ultimately it’s the very risk of that road that caused her to crash. Thinking about what makes a strong and independent woman, we often forget about the things that they deal with privately that have forced those characteristics to come out. Ultimately I think I see in Joy every woman. Women and girls are taught that their suffering is ultimately fine-tuning them for something better, and what we’re really talking about is fine-tuning them to endure and manage what is abuse or harassment or violence. Trying to look that squarely on in the book was important to me.
Faith also features largely in your story, both as a source of conflict and of mystery. Could you speak more to that?
As a child I mostly knew faith as this divisive tool to isolate and alienate. As soon as I met Joy she had this conviction that “God brought you to me and God wants you to tell my story.” I told her that’s lovely but it’s not something that I necessarily believe. But she was really fundamental in helping me identify very clearly the abuse happening in my own life and the repercussions that might happen if I wasn’t able to initiate change. When I think about the ideal of what faith is to people, that idea of love thy neighbor at the end of the day comes to loving someone that is different from you and treating them with compassion and empathy.
What do you hope readers will take away from your story of surviving domestic abuse?
I want this book to sort of widen the perception of abusive relationships and what violence looks like. I write about this idea of a hierarchy in which only the most extreme cases of violence are reason for alarm and concern. It took me a very long time to identify I was in an abusive relationship, and I hope other women who’ve been in similar situations see part of themselves in this book and recognize that abuse takes many forms.