– By Hufsa Tahir
Binnie Brennan’s Harbour View, a collection of shorts, explores the bittersweet tang of nostalgia inside the quiet little world of a nursing home. Simultaneously touching and melancholy, it is not a book I’d normally pick up – but I am incredibly glad I did. The delicately interwoven stories, beautiful in the poignant emotion behind every word, present a multifaceted view of the reality of life within the walls of a home.
Each story introduces a new character, all revolving around each other. We meet Buddy, seeing the world through the sightless eyes of a man who now lives through sound, both around him and in his memories of a fiddle-playing, deceased daughter. There’s Violet, writing a letter to her grown-up niece about that one time when, in the prime of vivacious youth, she posed nude for a painting her niece has just unknowingly hung on the walls of her TV room.
The collection has its bleak moments. After Buddy, we meet Dahlia, the woman hiding a tremendous secret that has ostracized her from her family for decades. And beyond the patients, the nurses nurture demons of their own. Muriel is known to all as that chipper, bubbly nurse—but she remembers the times she used to wear long sleeves in summers to hide the evidence of spousal abuse. Then there’s dark-skinned and sombre Estella, feared by white residents out of some misguided remnants of racism, who sings to the angels in church on Sundays.
Every resident and worker at the home bears private scars. Some just hide theirs better.
The decision to put a loved one into a home is heavy with guilt and even, perhaps, some relief. Harbour View will shake your expectations of what life in a home is truly like, and make you question your own judgement.
*Note: Harbour View was shortlisted for an 2010 Atlantic Book Award, The Margaret and John Savage First Book Award
*Want to read what all the buzz is about? Visit the book page for Harbour View to purchase your own copy.