A Bird on Every Tree: A Collection of Short Stories by Carol Bruneau

Carol Bruneau has been getting some standout reviews recently for her new story collection, A Bird on Every Tree. James at The Miramichi Reader says that Ms. Bruneau “writes with a graceful precision and has a deftness with words and their cadences”. A reviewer at The Coast calls Ms. Bruneau “a master of imagery”. A reviewer at Atlantic Books Today says her stories are “beautiful and genuine”. Publisher’s Weekly calls her prose “accessible and lean” and says that it “reveals how much there is to discover in the everyday”. And Robert J. Wiersema at the Quill & Quire calls Ms. Bruneau “a master” and “a writer utterly in touch with her stories”.

What else can I add to that?

Maybe a few examples of her arresting first lines…

The only thing I was ever really scared of was drowning.

The moment they step off the train they feel foreign, too heavily Canadian in their warm dark clothes – tourists under the hazy sun, dressed not for the Tuscan spring but a Maritime one.

He’d never seen a kid with whiter skin, he was pretty sure.

Berlin is a city of pietàs, of hard goodbyes – but perched high above Mitte drinking wine, I lock out the thought, let it drop like a useless key to the courtyard many stories below.

Maybe passages from a few of my favourite stories…

In Blue Shadows, a new mother encounters a homeless man who asks to hold her baby.

That baby smell, the powdery skin, the rip of razor-sharp little fingernails contained by mittens. I’d just clipped Anna’s with my teeth before setting out. The thought of bringing anything remotely metal near those tiny fingertips enough to make me quiver, my inner parts slowly knitting back together after giving birth – the shock of it, and the bearish feeling, that you could claw someone’s eyes out to prevent their harming the baby: my baby.

In Solstice, a teenage girl buys an old van, parks it in a quiet parking lot, and uses it to live in.

It was cold but she could handle it. It was light she missed, light that would’ve made things better – fuck the festive season, light was all anyone with half a brain wanted – the only good thing about all the fuss, the commercialism, the consumerism, the churchy crap with the kid in a manger and the we-three-wise-ass-kings: it was all just people looking for light.

In The Vagabond Lover, a 107-year-old woman (“a ridiculous age”) remembers a man from her past with regret.

As it was, it was cold, beyond chilly and damp as they lay together on the picnic rock, the pair of them. The balky sun and his pale, pale chest when he undid his shirt. Even then she heard the rattling inside. But that wasn’t what stopped her. It was the thought of Ma’s hands, those chapped fingers. The swell of Ma’s stomach, the promise and the threat of another child, and the pies, the sheets, the roasts and gutted codfish, the tears, the spats, the mending – always something needing mending – these were the things that said, ‘Don’t be stupid’.

Aside from the writing and execution of her stories, I love that the characters in them are all, in some way, connected to Nova Scotia. An immigrant woman from Ireland swims a race in the Halifax Arm, a Nova Scotia couple tour Berlin while visiting their son who is working there as a musician, a woman comes home to NS after 26 years and reconnects with a past flame, a woman is confronted with the past while serving coffee at a homeless shelter, a gathering of cousins after the death of an Aunt leads to memories of their childhoods spent at the beach.

In an interview with James at The Miramichi Reader, Carol Bruneau tells us about her early literary influences (including L.M. Montgomery and Thomas Raddall), her love of travelling, and how this collection of stories came to be.

In addition to A Bird on Every Tree, I have also read and reviewed Carol Bruneau’s These Good Hands and Glass Voices, and I’m looking forward to more.

Thank you to James at The Miramichi Reader for sending me his extra review copy of this book!


18 thoughts on “A Bird on Every Tree: A Collection of Short Stories by Carol Bruneau

  1. Rebecca Foster says:

    I love it when short stories start with a zinger of a first line! I’ve been reading through several short story collections this month and will probably do a round-up post about them at some point. One was specifically a flash fiction collection, and in such super-short stories the first lines really have to set the scene right away.

    Good to see you back and reviewing 🙂 Hope you had a great break!

    • Naomi says:

      I had a lovely break, thank you! 🙂 But I’m having a little trouble coming out of it… there’s so much to catch up on!

      I’ll be watching for your short story round-up! I love good first and last lines, and look for them especially in short stories.

  2. TJ @ MyBookStrings says:

    Welcome back from your break. I’m not surprised that you return with a collection of NS-related short stories. After reading some great Irish short stories earlier this year, I realized how much I like those collections, and the first lines you include sure are wonderful.

    • Naomi says:

      The more I read short stories, the more I love them. But I still find it hard to fit them in around my even greater love for full length novels! But these stories were so nice to read. 🙂

  3. buriedinprint says:

    Are the links to Nova Scotia of varying intensity? It sounds like a great collection, and I’m sure the bits about Montgomery’s and Raddall’s influence didn’t harm your enthusiasm in any way! I feel like a Carol Bruneau reading project would be a good thing!

    • Naomi says:

      She definitely has enough books out now to make it a little project!

      Yes, the links are varied – some stories actually take place in NS, and others are about people from there, or passing through, etc.

  4. susan says:

    This collection sounds good. I’m going to check her book out. Nice interview of her too. If I ever get to Nova Scotia, which someday I think I will, I need a prep course first in life there. This might be just the thing.

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