A graduate of the Conservatoire d'art dramatique de Québec, she was already an established actress when her play, C'était avant la guerre à l'Anse à Gilles (1981), brought her national attention, winning the Governor General's Literary Award for French-language drama. A moving depiction of women's status in Québec in the 1930s, it was highly successful as well in its English translation, Before the War, Down at L'Anse à Gilles (1986).
Since then several of her plays have gained international acclaim, particularly L'Homme gris (1984), performed some 300 times in Paris and Brussels and translated into several languages, and Oublier (1987), which premiered in Brussels and won that city's annual award for best play. Other notable dramas are: the compelling portrayal of a young woman driven to suicide in Jocelyne Trudelle trouvée morte dans ses larmes (1981); Aurélie, ma soeur (1988); Le Faucon, which opened simultaneously in Quebec City and Montreal in 1991 and was revived in Toronto in 2000; Pierre, ou la Consolation (1992); Le night cap bar (1997); and Charlotte, ma sœur (2005).
Marie Laberge's first novel, Juillet (1989), was favourably received, followed by Quelques adieux (1992) and Le Poids des ombres (1994). In late 2000 she published Le Goût du bonheur: Gabrielle, the first volume of a trilogy exploring the evolution of Québec society from the 1930s to the 1970s. It was followed in 2000 and 2001 by the second and third volumes: Le Goût du bonheur: Adelaïde and Le Goût du bonheur: Florent.
Many of Laberge’s works focus on women’s life stories, couples’ relationships, and the pain of losing a child; examples include Annabelle (1996), La Cérémonie des anges (1998) and Revenir de loin (2010). In January 2009, Laberge created a fictional character named Martha who wrote and mailed 26 personalized letters per year to subscribing readers, giving them news of her life and hence the sense of a close relationship with her. Laberge continued to publish this epistolary serial for three years, until 2011. In 2015, she addressed the theme of suicide in Ceux qui restent.
Laberge also published a series of crime novels—Sans rien ni personne (2007), Mauvaise foi (2013) and Affaires privées (2017)–featuring the investigative team of Quebec detective Vicky Barbeau and French police commissioner Patrice Durand.
Laberge has been recognized many times for her talent as a novelist and has received numerous literary awards and special honours.
- Governor General’s Literary Award for French Drama, for C’était avant la guerre à l’Anse-à-Gilles (1981)
- Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters of France (1988)
- Raymond Blais Medal, Université Laval (1989)
- Woman of the Year in the Arts, La Presse Tribute Award, Salon de la femme (1990)
- Montréal 350th Anniversary Celebrations Award (1992)
- Elle-Québec Reader’s Choice Award for Quelques adieux (1993)
- Gémeaux Award for Best Television Drama Screenplay for Oublier, Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television (1993)
- Ludger Duvernay Award, Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste (1997)
- Quebec Booksellers’ Award for Annabelle (1997)
- La Presse Audience Choice Award for Annabelle, Salon du livre de Montréal (1997)
- People’s Choice Award for Annabelle, Salon du livre de Trois-Rivières (1997)
- Quebec Booksellers’ Award for La cérémonie des anges (1999)
- Great Quebecer Award, Cultural Sector, Académie des Grands Québécois, Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Québec (2000)
- La Presse Audience Choice Award for Le Goût du bonheur : Gabrielle, Salon du livre de Montréal (2001)
- Audience Choice Award for Le Goût du bonheur : Gabrielle, Salon du livre de Trois-Rivières (2001)
- Archambault Literary Grand Prize for Le Goût du bonheur : Gabrielle and Le Goût du bonheur : Adélaïde (2001)
- La Presse Audience Choice Award for Le Goût du bonheur : Adélaïde and Le Goût du bonheur : Florent, Salon du livre de Montréal (2002)
- Audience Choice Award for Le Goût du bonheur : Adélaïde, Salon du livre de Trois-Rivières (2002)
- Knight of the Order of La Pléiade, Assemblée Parlementaire de la Francophonie (2002)
- Knight of the National Order of Quebec (2004)
- Archambault Audience Choice Award for Sans rien ni personne (2008)
- La Presse Audience Choice Award for Revenir de loin, Salon du livre de Montréal (2011)
- Audience Choice Award for Revenir de loin, Salon du livre de la Côte-Nord (2011)
- Companion of the Order of Arts and Letters of Quebec (2015)
- Audience Choice Award for Ceux qui restent, Salon du livre de la Côte-Nord (2016)
- Medal of Honour of the National Assembly (2016)