Bridget Murphy is an unwed teenage mother who is seeking sanctuary in the psych ward of a Halifax children’s hospital. Apathetic and withdrawn, she struggles with depression after giving her baby up for adoption. But Bridget’s problems pale next to the other patients on her ward. There is Mona, the foul-mouthed rich kid, anorexics Kelly and Marie, and geeky, delusional Byron. Bridget observes the nightmarish, yet darkly humourous antics on the ward with a bemused detachment. At Christmas, Bridget is sprung from the hospital by her Uncle Albert. They return to her small Cape Breton town joining family and friends that make the psych ward inhabitants look like the poster children for mental health.
Bridget’s grandmother raves and prays from her bed, her father communicates in bellows punctuated by profanity and her mentally disabled Uncle Rollie spends his time making religious folk art to sell to tourists. Add to the mix her boozy friends and pesty ex-boyfriend and Bridget begins to realize that she has entered a place crazier than the one she left. Events that she once accepted as ordinary—an acrimonious Christmas dinner, rancorous encounters with relatives, a drunken party—suddenly become surreal.
What comes as a surprise to Bridget is that this world is just the place that she needs to be to heal her wounded psyche. Her ability to step outside herself and observe the absurdities of her life, also helps her to accept them and to acknowledge her place in the “Strange Heaven” that is her home.
Lynn Coady’s Strange Heaven burst on the Canadian Literary scene in 1998. Fresh, raw and utterly original it shot onto the best seller lists across the country and drew critical praise for its author. The book is now available in a new GLE Library Edition.