Told in startling vignettes and with bold, impeccable prose, Birth Road is a story of love, lost innocence, and the secrets that so often haunt small places.
Set in early twentieth-century Nova Scotia, our story follows the naive but curious Helen, as she recalls the relationships and significant moments that have led to the birth of her child. Born in the grip of poverty to a cruel mother and a gentle but absent father, Helen’s life follows a surprising path as she is moved from one place to another, constantly leaving the people she cares about behind.
The love she has for her best friend, Madge, and her husband, Edgar, are tested as her journey is overshadowed by rumours and secrecy. Her loving Aunt Gertie guides her with humour and wisdom as she grows into a woman.
Throughout it all, Helen takes in the world around her, but with an innocence that lets it break her heart over and over again. Why is Madge’s family so sad? Why does Helen's brother hate their mother and why has the details of their parents’ marriage been kept a secret?
As Helen grows, she slowly unravels family secrets, and finds the life she’s been building is one she never expected.
Moving from the woodlands of rural Nova Scotia to the city streets of Boston and back again, Birth Road is the powerful story of a woman desperate to live life on her own terms.
My mother was not one to dwell on the past. “Digging up old memories is like eating cherries,” she said. “Some people choose the sweet ones every time, and then there are the others, those who always choose the sour.” She said either way, you were left with a slimy pit in the palm of your hand—the ghost, she called it. “No good can come from that.”
I don’t agree with my mother. I have always liked the sweet and the sour. You really can’t appreciate one without the other. Memories are like that, too. Sometimes they’re all you have, so you take what you can. When I close my eyes, I can take myself back to that road. I feel the hot sun on my back, I smell the wild roses, I taste the road dust on my tongue, and I hear the children playing in the fields. I see every building I pass and every person who looks my way and I ache with the child in my belly, ready to be born.
That road holds all the ghosts of my life. On every corner, in every building, under every tree, and down every lane, I see them watching me and judging the past. All those I loved and all those I did not. They want to relive it. Stir it up again and see how it will all settle back down, like a child’s snow globe.
These memories are the map of my life, each triggered by their own essence, each found on the road I walked over sixty years ago when my baby came and saved my life.