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