Cover Image: Broken Man on a Halifax Pier

Broken Man on a Halifax Pier

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Member Reviews

As a young man, Charles left his childhood home, with the goal of becoming a writer.  After a successful career as a journalist, he loses his job & shortly after, loses his life savings.  One day, as he is sitting on a pier in Halifax Harbour, he meets Ramona, a former actress.  Ramona has considerable financial resources & is as attracted to Charles as he is to her.  They drive to Stewart Harbour, where Charles was born, & begin a life together which brings to light some secrets about Charles' past & Ramona's future.

This was an intriguing & well written story, which I often found myself thinking about.  I strongly recommend it.

Thank you to Netgalley, the author Lesley Choyce, and the publisher Dundurn for a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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Thank you to Netgalley and Dundurn for this advanced reader's copy in return for my honest review. I enjoyed this book because the characters were real and flawed. Would definitely read more from this author.
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What a joy to read! It isn't very often that I get to read Canadian literature so reading Broken Man on a Halifax Pier was an absolute treat for me. I was sold by the title and stayed for the unique characters and beautiful writing. This is an excellent book.
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Thank you for the opportunity to read this. I will be posting a full review to Goodreads, Amazon, and Instagram.
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Originally from New Jersey, Lesley Choyce moved to Nova Scotia when he was 27 years old and has never looked back. Since then, he has taught in the English Department at Dalhousie University for nearly 36 years, published over 90 books, and won numerous awards, including the Atlantic Poetry Prize, Dartmouth Book Award, and Best Writer of Halifax. In short, he is Atlantic Canadian writing royalty. Broken Man on a Halifax Pier, Choyce’s newest novel, sees him in top form as he tells the story of Charles and Ramona, two lonely fiftysomethings who form an unlikely connection one misty morning on the Halifax Harbourfront. A few false starts later, they make the fateful decision to visit Charles’s childhood home of Stewart Harbour, setting off a chain of events that unearths long-buried secrets and forces Charles and Ramona to confront the lives they lived before (and the people they left behind).
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I loved this story! The characters had flaws but normal human flaws. The setting was beautiful and felt part of the story. Loved it. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher!
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I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Leslie Choyce, and Dundurn publishers.  Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.  I have read this novel of my own volition, and this review reflects my personal opinion of this work. Broken Man on a Halifax Pier is an exceptional read.  I am pleased to recommend it to friends and family. 

I love books set on the rugged eastern coast of Nova Scotia.  Lesley Choyce shares with us his intimate knowledge of this landscape, these people in a novel that keeps you reading far into the night. 

This is a special book.  It qualifies as a romance - but our protagonists are 50 and 55 respectively, both have lived full lives and bring to the table a storied past, with pains and joys and baggage you would expect if you thought about it.  Add in Hurricane Greta, the fragile coastline of the Eastern Coast of Nova Scotia, a few old fishermen and a couple of young adults and you have an excellent mix-up of angst, fear and rampant nature that will have you burning the midnight oil.
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Broken Man on a Halifax Pier is primarily a story of relationships - with family, friends, and everyone in between. Charles escaped the small town of his childhood to become a newspaper writer in the city, but has since lost his job and all of his savings. Then one day a woman comes out of the fog as he's standing on a pier, and the instant connection they feel to one another takes them both by surprise. Will their budding relationship be able to withstand all the baggage they carry?

I primarily picked up this book because I like the song from which it gets its name, and I was curious to see if the story actually had anything to do with that song. It's not my favorite genre, but it is a well written story with the heartwarming message that it is never to late to form new relationships or repair damaged ones. It is a good read for fans of books about families.
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Rating:   5 shipwrecked stars

I so enjoyed reading this book!   It’s not what I was envisioning when I started it, but it was a wonderful read.  Lesley Choyce has written a clear-eyed story about what it means to get older when the plans you had laid out for yourself fail to materialize.   In the opening pages, we meet Charles Howard on a pier in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Ramona Danforth approaches him out on the pier.  She is concerned that he may be about to jump off the pier.   That is not the case, but Charles freely explains to Ramona how at 55 years old he ended up a penniless unemployed journalist.  

They decide to spend the day together.  Charles drives Ramona down to Stewart Harbor, the small fishing village where he grew up.  He has not returned to it since he left for college.  From there the adventures and misadventures start.   People in the village recognize him.  Some are happy to see him, some are not so happy.  Some are downright angry.  There are many scenes in his dad’s abandoned fishing shack, and old fishing boat.    Ramona has her own story and secrets that she slowly reveals, as they grow closer together.   The author so clearly shows the challenges of finding a new love when you both have so many experiences from your past to overcome.   

What a wonderful story this was.   It was not a gushily romantic tale of young love.  This was a fair-minded tale about how two people struggle to stand with each other despite all that has gone on in their separate pasts and all could happen in the future.  Both Charles and Ramona were shipwrecked in their own way before meeting each other.  They managed to stay kind, civil and understanding of each other’s past while they started to move forward together.  There is a good portion of time spent on the water, or on the Eastern Nova Scotia seashore.  This locale added to the depth of the story for me.  I would recommend this book for anyone looking a wonderful work of literary fiction.   

‘Thank-You’ to NetGalley; the publisher, Dundurn; and the author, Lesley Choyce for providing a free e-ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I knew I’d like this novel from its title.  I just had to play my Stan Rogers CDs as I read.  

Charles Howard, 55, has lost virtually everything, including his job and savings, and is basically destitute with no prospects.  One foggy morning in Halifax, he meets Ramona Danforth, a retired actress with a generous trust fund.  They end up taking a drive to Stewart Harbour on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore, a fishing village to which Charles has not returned since his high school graduation.  During this visit, Charles makes discoveries which complicate his life.   

In many ways this is a love story between two middle-aged people.  Such a romance is inevitably more complex than a relationship between young people because each partner comes with baggage.  What is not always clear is why Charles and Ramona continue to stay together when very serious complications arise.  From the beginning they choose to stay and support each other.  Charles, for instance, has always had commitment issues:  “It fit the story of my life.  Get involved.  Make a commitment.  Then walk away.”  Ramona has also had difficulty committing to another:  “’Like I said, over and over, I would get close to someone and then suddenly just walk away.  It would always be that easy for me.’”  We are to believe that these people fall in love immediately and, despite their previous unwillingness to commit to another, they now commit to the other even when very serious complications arise?

There are some sections of the novel that are humourous.  Rolf, who lives in a fishing shack next to the one Charles has inherited from his father, is the source of much of the humour.  The snappy banter between Charles and Ramona when they first meet also adds a light-hearted tone.  

I like books where the protagonist is dynamic.  That is definitely the case with Charles.  He sees himself as a “work in progress, a project undergoing repair.”  He learns about himself:  “I had cultivated a powerful ability to shut off my emotions.  A handy trick, I suppose, but I wondered now at what cost.”  He also realizes that “there was no such thing as a life without consequences.  Every little thing – or big thing – you do in life sends out ripples in the pond that keep getting wider and wider.”  Ramona is also dynamic; she learns to forgive.  

For me, the setting of the novel is part of its charm.  I’ve visited Nova Scotia several times and it remains one of my favourite places in Canada.  It is obvious that the author is very familiar with the province.  His descriptions left me tasting the salt of the Atlantic.  

The novel is very easy to read because of the writing style.  Though the book touches on some serious topics, it never bogs down.  Some events just seem inevitable; Brody’s story, for example, ends in the only way it could.  

I’ve learned that Lesley Choyce has written over 90 books.  Why have I not read him before?  I will certainly be checking out some of his other fiction.  

Note:  I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.
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Charles and Ramona meet by chance on a foggy rotten morning in Halifax and it changes their lives.  This lovely tale of mid life renewal and redemption features two people would not normally be in the same room much less the same car; she's an actress and he's a journalist who has just lost his job.  Regardless, their road trip to Stewart Harbor, the town where he grew up, is only the start.  Once there, Charle finds so much about himself.  He's got a weight on his shoulders that started in this small fishing town.  Seeing his old high school girlfriend and others sparks something inside of him.  It's told from Charles' perspective so Ramona remains more of a cipher but that's ok because it is really about him.  Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.  A good, atmospheric read with an excellent sense of place.
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This is a real gem of a book and not at all what I was expecting. It's a humorous, heart warming and very engaging tale of a man who has lost everything and is literally down to his last pennies when he meets an enigmatic woman on a Halifax Pier in the early morning fog.

Charles Howard had been a successful journalist until his newspaper folded and he was defrauded of his savings by the son of a friend. Now in his 50s with a half finished novel and an apartment he can no longer afford he's facing an uncertain future. Also in her 50s, Ramona Danforth, a retired actress living on a family trust fund, decides to buy Charles breakfast when she sees him looking so forlorn in the early morning fog. They share the same love of music and books and before he knows it Charles has suggested they take a drive in Ramona's Lexus to Port Stewart, a tiny fishing village on Nova Scotia's east coast. Charles grew up in Port Stewart but after leaving for college and with his parents dead, never went back. However, as he soon discovers he still has history waiting for him back there and suddenly his life has become a whole lot more complicated.

This is a gentle love story of two people who have become washed up on the shores of life, looking at lonely futures on their own. Instead they find themselves and also each other as they try to deal with the many challenges and near death experiences that are thrown at them in Port Stewart. The book is intelligently and beautifully written and tells an original and charming story of love and loss and learning to become part of a community. Charles and Ramona are wonderful characters, as are the residents of Port Stewart from Rolf, the drunken fisherman next door to Charles' old high school girlfriend Beth Ann, her son Brody and ex-husband Joe. I loved the descriptions of the coast and the fishing boats as Charles and Ramona enjoy both the endless summer days in his father's old shack as well as the might of the winter seas.  Highly recommended!
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3.5 stars

"I realized there was no such thing as a life without consequences. Every little thing—or big thing—you do in life sends out ripples in the pond that keep getting wider and wider."

Reading this novel was an interesting journey. The two main characters meet on a Pier on a random night and end up having a meal together. The dialogue is unusual in that it's almost immediately witty and they are quoting literature/poetry at each other which was amusing and also annoying at the same time. The interesting part is that this doesn't really continue throughout the novel all that much.

The characters, Ramona and Charles, meet and immediately hit it off and then decide to do an impromptu drive to Charles' hometown which he hasn't been to in a long, long time. This starts off a chain of events that add complications to both of the characters' lives. The issues get serious very quickly and the two characters get enmeshed in each others' lives.

While the story was engaging and I kept wanting to read it, I did feel like the emotional intensity required to so heavily and fully invest into another person whom you just met (especially when in the context of some of these very serious issues) was not really clear in the story. It always felt a bit distant. We didn't get to see the depth in any of the characters and understand their motivation for continuing to get/stay engaged in each others complex lives.

Having said that, I really did enjoy the story and enjoyed some of the secondary characters like Jack and BethAnn and the story continued to be engaging and worthwhile. The writing was engaging and it was a great story about second chances, small towns, people looking out for each other.

With gratitude to netgalley and Dundurn for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.
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I was initially intrigued by Charles and Ramona’s characters but had a hard time staying interested. I struggled with this review because I did enjoy the story line and appreciate how the book was written. There is so much that happens throughout the book. The events that happened are dramatic which I normally like. It seemed like there was a mid life crisis happening and I just couldn’t connect with that. This was not a quick read for me it took me a while to get through. I don’t think this book was for me.
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Charles is 55-years-old and unemployed.  He was a journalist until the newspaper shut down.  He has no money and no prospects.  One morning, he is standing on a pier on the Halifax Harbour and a woman starts talking with him.  Her name is Ramona and she is a former actress, now living off a trust fund provided by her father.  She invites him to breakfast.

Charles invites her to drive to his childhood home on the Eastern Shore on Nova Scotia.  He hasn't been back since he left for university many years ago.  His parents are now dead and his brother lives in Alberta.  Things move rather quickly and Charles and Ramona end up staying his father's old fishing shack.  The longer Charles and Ramona stay in Stewart Harbour, the more they become involved in the lives of those Charles had left behind ... a old fishing buddy of his father's (who was also a fisherman), his old girl friend, his ex-girl friend's ex-husband, his ex-girlfriend's son and others.

I've read a couple books by this author and this was the first fiction.  It is written in first person perspective in Charles' voice.  I liked the writing style and I liked the story.  As a head's up, there is swearing.

I'm originally from Nova Scotia (as is the author) so have been to some of the places Charles and Ramona went to ... like The Bluenose, where they had breakfast.  I lived for a year not too far from "Stewart Harbour" on Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore. 

I liked the characters.  I thought Charles and Ramona got together very quickly and it was a bit unbelievable to me that they would fall in love within days.  Though Ramona had lots of money and Charles had none, I thought it was weird that Ramona would be so generous so quickly and that Charles would be okay living off Ramona ... he didn't seem to have any ambition to make his own money or any qualms about accepting her generosity.
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This book started off like slipping into a comfy chair after a long workday. It was familiar and easy to get in to.  But as the story developed, it felt more like a soap opera. Things happened and then more things happened and I felt like I was watching a never ending drama.  I struggled to care about the characters in this book. In the end I would say this would be a good book to take to the beach or on a vacation.
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Thank you to Durdurn Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This was a lovely, emotional and evocative read. Without any evidence of heavy lifting, the author set a very Canadian scene and told a wonderful story about unexpected love, friendship and new beginnings.
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This is a sweet story of a man and a woman finding each other in the most unexpected way and time. They work together (and at times look like they’ll fail each other)  to overcome childhood trauma, commitment issues, familial disputes, fears of what the future holds, and finding inner strength when everything around them seems to falls apart. It’s a beautiful romance story that doesn’t have a hint of cheesiness, which is refreshing. I felt there were parts of the story that were drawn out longer than they needed to be but overall it’s a lovely story two people finding love when they thought those days were over for them. Thank you #NetGalley and Dundurn Press for the ARC of #brokenmanonahalifaxpier.
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55-year-old Charles has just lost his job and doesn’t have a cent to his name. As the title says, he’s a broken man on a Halifax pier. Then out of the mist walks Ramona, a beautiful 50-year-old actress with pots of ‘guilt’ money from the father who deserted his family to take up with a series of sweet young things. Ramona buys Charles breakfast and next thing he’s driving her to his hometown on the coast, a place he hasn’t visited in decades. Lots of things are dredged up from Charles’ past and Ramona has every reason to leave, but she feels drawn to Charles, even though she has her own issues to work through.  Will their newfound love be enough to help them navigate through the difficulties they encounter? Or will each of them run like they have before? And how will they cope with all those extended family members who have problems of their own?

This was an interesting book. On one hand, it’s a mid-life crisis kind of story, but there’s more depth to it as both characters come to terms with the past and work out what that means for the future. Some of the recurring themes include regret, forgiveness, and atonement. There are also a few twists and turns along the way. I especially liked the snappy banter between Charles and Ramona early in the book. It reminded me of some of those old movies with Bogart and Bacall or Tracy and Hepburn. Sure enough, Bogart was mentioned a few times. The sense of place was also good, with lots of lovely descriptions of life in a small harbour town in Nova Scotia. There were a lot of interesting secondary characters, and the dramatic scenes towards the end were skilfully written.

Although I thought the characters, setting and issues were interesting, I found it hard to emotionally connect with the characters. I liked them to a point, but I felt some of the emotion was missing. As it’s all told from Charles’ first-person POV, it was hard to really get to know Ramona. Though the reason for the first-person narrative does become clearer by the end of the book. There were also a couple of times when something really dramatic happened that should have garnered a strong emotional response, but it was dealt with almost in a matter-of-fact way. (Can’t be specific due to spoilers). There was more swearing than I like, particularly lots of F-bombs. I don’t mind it if it’s in context with rough characters who would speak like that (and that was certainly the case at times). But I don’t understand why two people in love have to keep using the F-bomb when just chatting to each other. To me, that’s a romance killer. There are also a couple of incidents involving an extreme fundamentalist Christian group that behaves in a horrible manner. I know there are people like that, but it bugs me when the only Christians mentioned in a book are merciless, judgemental people who most Christians would also be appalled at. There were also a couple of other negative comments about Christianity that seemed unfair to me, though I understand that different people have had different experiences. I just don’t like it when the only comments made about a particular group are negative.

In spite of those reservations, I was motivated to keep reading to see what happened to Charles, Ramona and the rest of the unusual extended family. Growth and forgiveness was seen in some quarters and the book did say a lot about commitment in difficult circumstances. The writing was fresh and original in many places and there was a lot of food for thought. It was ultimately a hopeful book about the power of love and second chances. I just wish I could have connected with the characters a bit better.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a free e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Unexpected rescue for a shipwrecked life

Peter is a man at rock bottom. At the start of this novel, we find him standing on the Halifax Pier contemplating what to do. He is 55 years old and has lost everything; his long- term journalism job and his entire life savings due to a swindle. As he thinks about his future, a woman turns up, both mysterious and beautiful. She takes him off to breakfast, and their story begins.

On a whim, Peter asks Ramona to drive him back to his childhood home, Stewart Harbour, a fishing village populated by a community honed by struggle and hardship. Peter begins to pick up the strands of the life he had left so abruptly after graduating from University. Now racked by the guilt he tries to come to terms with the combined loss of his parents, his close friends and a way of life. It turns out Ramona also has a past that has left her confused and guilty, having her own demons to deal with, and it is soon revealed she has good reason to be fearful about her future. 

Can they move forward and establish a relationship together when neither has been able to commit before?

The Canadian setting is an interesting one, and certainly one of the best passages in the book is when a hurricane hits the coast with huge ferocity. The danger and the damage that the storm inflicts is vividly described. The story rattles along with some unexpected twists and turns. My main criticism is with the dialogue between Peter and Ramona, especially in the first few chapters where the use of witty one-liners is relentless. Do people really talk like that with no let-up, particularly when they have only just met? Most of us think of something funny to say long after the moment has gone! It became irritating and unrealistic after a while.  

Lesley Choice has written 80 books and is an experienced story-teller. This book would be a good holiday read, but it didn’t blow me away.

Jane

Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review.
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