The Broken Heart of Winter by Judy LeBlanc

In Victoria, BC, Lise is living a quiet life, having built it back up to do what she wants after her son Daniel ran away from home her marriage collapsed. She’s finally selling their marital home, she’s working as a baker and getting stronger, and then – Daniel resurfaces. He’s in Nova Scotia, and he’s in trouble. Brandishing an antique gun belonging to his great-uncle in a fight, Daniel is in a difficult spot, but Lise ultimately decides to go out east to visit him, and rediscover her roots. The Broken Heart of Winter is a curious tale of family, estrangement, history, and the Acadian diaspora. Inside Lise and Daniel’s story is the story of their ancestors: Appoline, a young Acadian woman living with her family in Cape Breton in the early 19th century, two generations after Le Grand Dérangement; and before that, the story of Anne, Appoline’s grandmother, who was a young woman in 1755, when she fled with her husband and children to evade deportation.

LeBlanc looks at the reverberations of trauma and displacement, as well as the way these feelings played out in the current generation. Daniel represents the act of reconnecting and acceptance, seeking his roots as an Acadian, and coming home. LeBlanc takes the concept of the Maritimer longing for home and plays with it a little bit, making Lise and Daniel a little less straightforward. Appoline’s story, the second section, deals with the burden of living under the memories of a great schism: she is much too young for Le Grand Dérangement, but continues to have her life and world shaped by the elders who did live through it. And finally, Anne’s story is one of reflection and memory of the journey they took, the refugee camp they lived in on the Miramichi River (today known as Beaubears Island), and the loss and grief they faced.

This is a sparse yet incredibly full novel. It’s a slim volume, but each section could have been much longer. In many ways, I wish LeBlanc had fleshed out each section more, because the stories were so rich on their own. Being of Acadian descent myself and living up the road from Beaubears Island, The Broken Heart of Winter gave me an opportunity to reflect on my own relationship with my family history. This novel is also a good introduction to Acadian history, if you weren’t especially familiar with it. I enjoyed reading this, and appreciated the information on Acadian history, as well as the exploration of family and how we interact with the past.

Judy LeBlanc is a writer from Fanny Bay, BC. Several of her stories and essays have been published in Canadian literary journals, and a collection of her short stories, The Promise of Water, was published by Oolichan Books in 2017. Though she was born and raised on the west coast, she has Acadian ancestry on her father’s side. She was the founder of the Fat Oyster Reading Series in Fanny Bay and taught creative writing at North Island College for several years. 

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Caitlin Press (Feb. 24 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 184 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1773861050
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1773861050

 -- Website

Alison Manley has ricocheted between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for most of her life. Now in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she is the Cataloguing and Metadata Librarian at Saint Mary's University. Her past life includes a long stint as a hospital librarian on the banks of the mighty Miramichi River. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. While she's adamant that her love of reading has nothing to do with her work, her ability to consume large amounts of information very quickly sure is helpful. She is often identified by her very red lipstick, and lives with her partner Brett and cat, Toasted Marshmallow.