Shooting the Bruce tells the story of Tom Travis, a Canadian soldier who served as a peacekeeper in several countries. When he is stationed in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the brutal war that took place there in the 1990s he has a mental breakdown. After witnessing the most violent war in Europe since World War Two, he wakes up one day and can no longer recognize himself in the mirror.
Suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, Travis leaves the army for a civilian life. Unfortunately, his mental struggles continue to haunt him and he breaks up with his fiance. Alone, unemployed and unsure where to live, he eventually settles in the fictitious small town of Wemje, Ontario, in Bruce County, where he establishes a wildlife photography business and begins the process of psychological healing.
The ensuing novel focuses on how people reinvent themselves. In regard to Travis, this can be seen in the play on the verb “to shoot,” where he goes from a world where he routinely fires guns, to a tranquil rural setting where he shoots photographs of wildlife.
He is not the only character, however, who is changing or searching for meaning. There is Hannah Eaglesmith, the reporter for the local newspaper the Wemje Advocate, who is moving on from a failed marriage, while doing everything she can to teach her children about their aboriginal roots.
Then there is the young son of the owner of the Wemje Advocate, who first meets Travis while sports shooting, but then starts changing his views on nature after accompanying Travis on awe inspiring trips to photograph eagles. In fact, this questioning of hunters who kill animals for pure sport is a recurring theme in the book, as Travis, the former soldier who is traumatized by war, criticizes rural sportsmen who kill for pleasure.
Overall, this is a very well-written book that recounts a beautiful story about healing and rediscovery.
4 out of 5 stars