Review: A Bird on Every Tree, Carol Bruneau

Carol Bruneau's collection of short stories A Bird on Every Tree gloriously explores the complex relationship people have with the place they call home. Through the lens of teenage angst, many of us see ourselves having a great big-city life and never returning home. However, tragedy, heartbreak or failure sometimes has us return to the place that formed us, only to have us relearn and rediscover that which was once familiar.

Bruneau is a master of imagery. In "Saint Delia," "Berries bounce Like hailstones. The shadows too are blue, eating the field the way waves eat the ocean beach..." The last time I was arrested by such imagery was in Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things in which Rahel's new teeth were described as "waiting inside her gums, like words in a pen."

Land plays an integral character in a number of Bruneau's stories. In "Crotch Rockets," home is called Torporville and is written about with a sort of genius banality. The author's ability to take the uninteresting and make it exotic is both an indicia of great writing and artistry. She plucks beauty from simplicity—a washer dryer combo located in a "basement oasis" is described as "icebergs." The idea of taking a simple hometown and highlighting the grit and sadness of the place interrogates the modern idea of "livable" cities, showing that sometimes they aren't really that interesting.

Those of us who come from away are often threshold figures—we have one foot in the place we left and another in the place in which we now live. As someone who has called a number of cities home, it's never easy answering the question "Where are you from?" In 12 stories, Bruneau explores this notion of home and deftly illustrates that it's definitely not a place but rather a feeling.

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