Berth is the story of thirty-something Willa’s flight from a military marriage to the romance of life with Hugh, a lightkeeper on an island in Halifax Harbour. Set in 1987, the story begins with Willa’s move to the nearby base, where her husband Charlie works aboard the Sea King helicopters. Charmed by Hugh’s lifestyle, Willa moves in with him, taking her ten-year-old son, Alex. Hugh’s job is endangered by the encroaching automation of the lighthouses, but he clings to his way of life — despite suspicions that the house in which he lives and which contains the light is contaminated by the mercury in the light, an occupational hazard.
From the outset, the affair is complicated by Willa’s motherhood, and the island, once a remote paradise, soon reveals itself as the military’s dumping grounds. The reality of life there sets in, posing a threat not just to romance, but to Willa’s sanity.
The novel explores the human propensity to seek greener pastures, and, by turn, to suffer the dangers of the status quo. It’s about idealism — the purity of love and nature, and their defilement, and the survival of both, however diminished, in a fallen world.
“This is a subtle work of offhand wisdom and insight, heartbreakingly true-to-life.”
“The bleakness of Willa’s life as wife and mother has more to do with Willa than the essential facts of being a military wife, and Charlie is not a bad man. But with no outlet for passion and no sense of any possible change in her marriage, Willa easily falls victim to her own empty heart. It’s not a good situation, but it’s understandable given the boundaries of her life. And the fact that she eloquently reveals all those conflicting and volatile needs is a testament to Carol Bruneau’s considerable empathy and skill.”
“It’s a story about lust. It’s about choice in a dark world. It’s about people who are unwilling or unable to bear the costs of their choices – a world where light falls nonetheless from unexpected sources.”
“Berth is a novel about taking chances with one’s heart and what happens when you cast off the present for a questionable future. It’s about self-deception, dependency and how change does not always mean a chance at a new life. The emotions in the novel are raw ones, the writing empathetic and skilled. A Nova Scotia novel with a difference, Berth is a winner.”