Carol Bruneau, Author A PURPLE THREAD FOR SKYCarol $26 (407p) ISBN 978-0-7867-0860-4

Three Nova Scotia women, each of a different generation, take turns narrating lives spent mostly behind the counter of their family's general store in this debut novel by short story writer Bruneau (Depth Rapture; After the Angel Mill). Though subtitled A Novel of Intertwined Lives, the narrative fails to quite cohere, unraveling instead into three separate autobiographies. The Coxes, a working-class, British family, come to Canada in the late 1880s in search of work. Effie, the eldest child, tells her story through letters to a long-deceased little sister, letters her daughter, Ruby, finds decades later. Upon Effie's death, Ruby inherits the keys to the family store. With a cheating husband and no children of her own, she becomes the guardian of her niece, Lindy. Now, at age 90, Ruby is suffering from Alzheimer's, leaving Lindy, in her 60s, to run the store and tend to her aunt, who is prone to ever more unusual behavior. As if Lindy doesn't have enough to deal with, Wilf, a jovial customer nearing retirement, has grown sweet on her. Effie's epistolary chapters provide a diversion from the stream-of-consciousness narration of Ruby and Lindy; the novelty of their chapters soon wears thin. Threads of stories separate and are dropped—for instance, Wilf's highway crew finds some old bones near the town cemetery, but after a moment of panic the entire subplot is discarded. The language is often cluttered and awkward, relying heavily on clumsy similes. Warmly imagined but of uneven execution, the tale falters and stumbles, losing its way in Bruneau's verbiage. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/09/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!