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The Broken Heart of Winter

Judy LeBlanc

Three generations of Acadian women grapple with the impacts of dislocation, exile, and violence in award-winning writer Judy LeBlanc’s debut novel, The Broken Heart of Winter.

Lise, Appoline and Anne are related, though they live on opposite coasts at different moments of time, with the vast geography of Canada and decades of change in between. The three women are linked by generations of hardship, displacement, and an eighteenth-century French musket that has been passed down through the LeBlanc family since the time of the Acadian expulsion.

In contemporary Victoria, BC, Lise’s estranged son, Daniel, reappears in Nova Scotia just when she’s making significant changes in her life, including a nasty divorce from Daniel’s father. Upon learning that her son is living with a distant relative Lise barely knows and causing enough trouble to draw the attention of the authorities, Lise goes to him and begins to unravel a family history that brings about unintended consequences. In 1832, on Isle Madame, Nova Scotia, eighteen-year-old Appoline is left by her older brother to overwinter in an isolated cove, where she’s in charge of five members of her family ranging in age from ten to ninety-nine. Grand-mère, the family matriarch, refuses to leave despite the wishes of her family. Tension grows between Appoline and her younger sister, coming to a head when the sister brings home a young ‘Jersey man.’ Finally, Grand-mère tells her own story of the Acadian expulsion of 1755. Her memories follow a group of Acadian fugitives on their flight into what is now northern New Brunswick, seeking refuge at the infamous Camp D’Espérance.

In each successive generation, the imprint of the expulsion perpetuates further suffering, severs a connection to the past and contributes to the gradual erosion of cultural identity. Nevertheless, these three women are resilient in the face of great obstacles. The Broken Heart of Winter speaks to the capacity of the human spirit to love, to adapt, and to carry on.