The Blur of Blamed and Broken
When I set up this website to support Blamed and Broken, I had the best intentions to flood it with content about the single most challenging story I’ve ever told as a journalist. You may have seen some of the many tweets I’ve written in the past couple of weeks which have landed on the home page. Yet, even writing short Twitter bursts to highlight the book’s publication and reception became a mental and emotional challenge. So much so, that from what I imagined would be laid back launch two weeks ago until now, is a bit of a blur.
On the evening of the launch, at the cozy lounge of one of my favourite Vancouver pubs, I hefted two cardboard boxes containing 40 copies of Blamed and Broken from the trunk of my car to the bar counter. I felt a mix of self-consciousness and reluctance, believing it was hubris to think the red-jacketed books would be wanted. To say I was overwhelmed by the curious, supportive and congratulatory guests is inadequate. Before I knew it, the boxes were empty. The books had all found homes in people’s hands.
I had always believed deeply that Blamed and Broken needed to be written. It began to dawn on me the night before publication that other people felt the same way. Amazon was showing the book as a best seller. I awoke the next day to see that The Globe and Mail featured it as one of THE books to read this winter.
Yet, the familiar feeling of being falsely hopeful descended upon me that afternoon as I crossed the threshold of Indigo’s flagship store in Vancouver. It was publication day – January 12. It’s a date I had been aware of for the better part of a year. My eyes were immediately drawn to a table draped in black, covered with artfully stacked copies of Blamed and Broken. Behind the table was a chair. It took me a moment to remember the chair was for me. I was in the store to sign copies of my own book. I have since told people I felt a little like a mall Santa at Easter: confident in the product of my labour, yet doubtful people saw a need for it. After a few conversations and signings I felt a little less like someone handing out free samples at Costco. A little.
The other thing, for which I don’t think I prepared mentally, was being interviewed about Blamed and Broken. As a journalist, I’ve spent more than half my life telling other people’s stories – usually via a microphone. Over the past two weeks, I’ve had a taste of what it’s like to be the subject. It’s not been easy. Blamed and Broken spans more than a decade. The book itself is over 100 thousand words, and is jigsaw puzzle of connected pieces that makes the most sense when they’re connected and the reader is able to figuratively stand back and taken it all in. There is simply no way to appreciate how fresh the book’s content is without reading it. In interviews long and short, I did my best.
It is still intimidating to see Blamed and Broken with the bold red image of a Mountie’s tunic on the cover staring back at me from a book store display, as it was when I visited Mosaic Books in Kelowna this past weekend. Once more, a table had been set up for me near the entrance. Once more I felt intimidation as I nervously eyed the neat stack of books in front of me the way someone looks at a pile of pancakes at a food eating contest. My nerves didn’t ease when, for a short while, customers silently walked past me to a man seated nearby with his dog and launched into animated discussions about breeds and swapped pet stories. My confidence kicked in the moment the first person walked up to my table, placed their hand on one of the books, and told me they had heard I would be there and wanted to talk about the story. Over the next several hours, the stack of books disappeared in cloud of conversations I had with readers who reminded me again and again why I wrote Blamed and Broken. Each copy I signed felt like the first, because I knew it would end up in someone’s hands who wanted to learn what I had. One man, who volunteered he was on a disability income, clutched a copy and thanked me for writing it. No sooner had I finished signing it, than a woman who’d overheard him speak quietly reached into her purse, retrieved a $20 bill and tucked it into his hand. It was unexpected and unrelated to anything I’d done, but I was glad I was there to witness it.
The past two weeks of congratulation and support has gone beyond what I could have imagined. What’s been most moving is to realize that most people who’ve now read Blamed and Broken, get it.
Of course, I also know there are those who’ve read it and are either troubled by the contents, or quarrel with what they mean to a narrative they may have nursed for years in this case. That’s OK, too.
I’m looking forward to more opportunities in the coming days, to share it with people.