A Bird on Every Tree

Short stories. I really, really am trying to get into them.

I tackled A Bird on Every Tree by Carol Bruneau, determined to like it. And I really liked the first short story, called ‘The Race,’ about a long distance swim. The swimmer is trying to outpace not just her rivals, but her life too. I felt the chill of the water, the struggle to push through, as the narrator swam.

The second short story ‘Doves’ I had actually read before, time and place entirely unremembered, but I felt good about that. Gave myself a little back pat.

I really enjoyed Bruneau’s lively description of places, and the details she uses to bring back a memory and make them feel alive. In ‘The Grotto’, she writes: “Brakes juddering, the coach lurched and swayed through sun-drenched streets, gears gnashing as it lumbered uphill. Stomachs swayed with it …” Her descriptions in the story, set in France, remind me so much of being on a tour bus exactly like that when I was in high school and visiting Paris. This is the magic of good writing: it brings up memories you’d long forgotten, pulled up by a turn of phrase or the right word in the right place.

She does this over and over again, with stories set in Germany, and Nova Scotia, both places I have not been but can feel and picture vividly, thanks to the description of place. Not everyone does it so well as Bruneau has in this collection.

Carol Bruneau was at Events 54 (How this Story Began) and 75 (Writing Canada 2) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.

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