The Broken Heart of Winter

By Judy LeBlanc

Categories: Fiction
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781773861050, 184 pages, February 2023

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. 


“With her eye for detail and ear for voice, in this most Canadian of sagas, Judy LeBlanc brings the present and the past vividly to life. Deftly spanning centuries, The Broken Heart of Winter reveals the resilience of the human spirit in the tumult of loyalty, family, violence, and love.”

—Bill Gaston, author of Just Let Me Look at You

“If you are Acadian, Mi’kmaq, or a Vietnamese baker working the night shift in Victoria, BC, what does survival—physical, familial, cultural and financial—look and sound and feel like? This powerful, beautifully written novel explores the grim historical realities of Acadian expulsion and exile as well as the glorious small and large-scale triumphs of survival in the 1830s and modern-day Canada. A timely and necessary contribution to understanding and empathy for this planet’s perennial population of refugees, the exiled, those who perished and those who survived.”

—Caroline Woodward, author of Alaska Highway Two-Step

“Encapsulating the lives of three women and as many centuries, this book tells enough story for three novels in language that is spare and concise. Anyone who has ‘grown up overshadowed by the ghost of a greater time and the ever-present bone-felt sting of an old thievery’ will recognize themselves in this chronicle of women tied together through generations by an unremitting sense of inherited loyalty and loss. Spanning centuries, the story carries us on its shoulders, offering perspective on how it would have been for those who came before and how to go on with the burden of that knowledge.”

—Ethel Whitty, author of The Light a Body Radiates

“This spare, poetical novel brings to life the Grande Dérangement—the Expulsion of the Acadians—in richly-detailed, evocative prose. Bookended by the contemporary story of descendants, LeBlanc shows us how historical trauma may live in the blood, and be deranged by it, as it passes from generation to generation. The hope she offers is that tragedy, acknowledged, may heal old wounds.”

—Caroline Adderson, author of A Russian Sister