A Crossing of Hearts continues Michel Tremblay’s Desrosiers Diaspora series of novels, a family saga set in Montreal during World War I.
August 1915. Montreal is stifled by a heat wave while war rages in Europe. The three Desrosiers sisters – Tititte, Teena, and Maria – had been planning a whole week of vacation in the mountains, to do nothing but gossip, laugh, drink, and overeat while basking in the sun. Maria had decided to leave her children, Nana and Théo, in Montreal, in the care of a neighbour who gives her a hand when she needs it. Now Maria’s children come roaring into the kitchen, pink with pleasure, begging to come too. “I keep telling you, Momma, we’ll be as quiet as little mice,” Nana assures her. “We’ll hardly take up any room. You won’t even know we’re there.”
Reluctantly, Maria takes her children along on the week-long trip to the Laurentians. As the reader views the journey through young Nana’s eyes, we come to understand the impoverished circumstances they leave behind in Montreal, only to find poverty ever more present in the country. Yet here it is surrounded by mountains, reflected in a lovely lake, and the blue sky gives them a moment of respite. It feels good to get out of town, and Tremblay’s writing remains so vivid that the reader imagines dipping into cool lake water along with the family. Encounters with rural relatives crystallize young Nana’s true feelings for her mother, as confidences and family secrets fuse day into night.
This third novel in Tremblay’s Desrosiers Diaspora series bursts with life as Nana, the young city girl, explores the natural world – and the enchanted forest of her inner, maturing self. The novel also further develops the character of Maria so that we understand her motivations more fully, and at the same time recognize nods to the history of Quebec and the dynamics of the family under the strictures of the Catholic church.
Born in a working-class family in Quebec, novelist and playwright Michel Tremblay was raised in Montreal’s Le Plateau neighbourhood. An ardent reader since a young age, Tremblay began to write, in hiding, as a teenager. One of the most produced and the most prominent playwrights in the history of Canadian theatre, Tremblay has received countless prestigious honours and accolades. Because of their charismatic originality, their vibrant character portrayals and the profound vision they embody, Tremblay’s dramatic, literary and autobiographical works have long enjoyed remarkable international popularity; his plays have been adapted and translated into dozens of languages and have achieved huge success in Europe, the Americas and the Middle East. Of his own work, Tremblay has said,I know what I want in the theatre. I want a real political theatre, but I know that political theatre is dull. I write fables.” Tremblay’s novel The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant was long-listed for the CBC Canada Reads program in both 2002 and 2003. In 2004, he appeared as a guest of honour at the Calgary WordFest. In January and February of 2005, the Manitoba Theatre Centre presented TremblayFest: a two-week extravaganza in which fifteen of Tremblay’s stage plays were performed by sixteen different theatre companies. In April 2006—as Montreal concluded its term as World Book Capital—Tremblay was the recipient of the Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prix, awarded annually in recognition of a lifetime of literary achievement to a writer of international stature and accomplishment.
Born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Sheila Fischman was raised in Ontario and is a graduate of the University of Toronto. She is a founding member of the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada and has also been a columnist for the Globe and Mail and Montreal Gazette, a broadcaster with CBC Radio, and literary editor of the Montreal Star. She now devotes herself full time to literary translation, specializing in contemporary Quebec fiction, and has translated more than 125 Quebec novels by, among others, Michel Tremblay, Jacques Poulin, Anne Hébert, François Gravel, Marie-Claire Blais, and Roch Carrier. Sheila Fischman has received numerous honors, including the 1998 Governor General’s Award (for her translation of Michel Tremblay’s Bambi and Me for Talonbooks); she has been a finalist fourteen times for this award. She has received two Canada Council Translation Prizes and two Félix-Antoine Savard Awards from Columbia University. In 2000, she was invested into the Order of Canada and, in 2008, into the Ordre national du Québec, and, in 2008, she received the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize for her outstanding contributions to Canadian literature. She holds honorary doctorates from the Universities of Ottawa and Waterloo. Fischman currently resides in Montreal.