Friday, July 15, 2022

“Nothing But The Truth: A Memoir” by Barbara Lewis, reviewed by Barbara Lewis

Published by McClelland and Stewart, 2021, 266 pages. Available from Chapters here or find it at your local, independent bookstore – see here.

Marie Henein came into prominence as the lead criminal defence attorney for Jian Ghomeshi, the celebrity CBC radio host who in late 2014 was arrested and charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking. Ghomeshi pleaded not guilty to all charges.

During the criminal trial, the prosecution’s case was irreparably weakened by the inconsistency and “outright deception” of the testimony against Ghomeshi, and as a result he was acquitted of all charges.  After the trial, there was much public disdain for the judge’s ruling and much criticism of Marie Henein and the Canadian legal process.  In defending Ghomeshi, Henein was accused of betraying women in general and the three women complainants in particular.

In her memoir, Nothing But The Truth, Henein does not comment on the Ghomeshi case or any other criminal defence case because of her steadfast dedication to client-lawyer privilege.  However, she does expand on the need for a strong defence in criminal cases, because it is relatively easy to accuse someone of a criminal offence. And without a strong defence, an individual could be arbitrarily stripped of his or her rights as a citizen of this country.

This memoir is written in a refreshingly unapologetic conversational style.  The content is well organized in three sections: Henein’s early years with her family; her career as a criminal defence lawyer; and her life as she turns 50. A brief Epilogue completes the memoir with a description of her totally unfulfilling pandemic self-journey.

Marie Henein’s background is Egyptian and Lebanese and during her early years there was much family transcontinental movement.  In the face of civil war and associated family hardships, the family moved from Cairo to Vancouver; to Beirut then to Toronto; back to Beirut and finally to Toronto again. 

"Life isn't built on dreams -
it must be taken by force." ~Marie Henein 

As she grew, persevered, studied law and became a well respected and recognized Canadian criminal defence lawyer, Henein continued to take offence when asked “Where are you really from?”  Throughout the pages of this introspective and immensely engaging memoir, she finally answers this nagging life-long question and the answer may surprise you. 

While reflecting on her early years and career, Henein highlights the importance and value of strong role models: her mother and grandmother, who instilled in her the values of hard work, financial independence, and freedom.  In fact, her mother insisted that Marie was no different than a man as far as these values were concerned.

On another note, her mother and grandmother were great fashion followers in Beirut, the Paris of the middle east, and later had their own fashion business in Toronto. As a result, Henein developed her own personal style at an early age. From time to time, her attire in the court room caused quite a stir. She was never afraid of the hard work or long hours. She just was not prepared to work in sensible shoes.

On her decision to become a criminal defence attorney, Henein comments that the work, subject matter, and her passionate commitment to individual rights, fit well with her personality and intellectual interests, not to mention her love of a good fight and an uphill battle.

Henein’s intention in writing this memoir is her desire to say some things about herself, her profession, and about the justice system, because she feels that there are so many assumptions and misconceptions about her life.  She does not want to be seen as an enigma, but instead wants the reader to know her and why she does what she does.

 From a strictly personal perspective, I find it humorous to consider her views on turning 50 as well as the many questions she asked her dermatologist. This brilliant and highly accomplished woman is still a woman of a certain age doing her best to cope with wrinkles and the aging process. She states that “According to various analytics, men hit their prime at fifty. Her analytics are far less cheerful.” Her comments on Martha Stewart, Tik Tok, meditation, yoga and cottage life are both informative and humorous.

Nothing But The Truth: A Memoir sheds light on the complexities surrounding the author’s life, thoughts, behaviour, and decisions. It is a serious book for the most part, while providing good belly laughs and many thought-provoking insights. This book is a highly recommended read for anyone curious about a self-determined and highly individuated woman at the top of her game in a male-dominated field and who is also a fashionista, wife, and mother.


Barbara Lewis is a graduate of Western University and a retiree of the Federal Public Service. She supports The Canadian Federation of University Women and Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario.  She lives with her husband in Burlington, Ontario.

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