Bruneau confronts his past through writing
Robert “Bobby” Bruneau ’95 set out to write a memoir. Along the way, the memoir turned into historical fiction with the names changed in the story to protect those he was writing about.
Interested in writing since he was a child, Bruneau wrote a lot of poems and eulogies for friends. People kept telling him he should write a book, that his story should be told. He didn’t think he was capable of writing that much, but he says with a laugh that his wife said he most certainly could since he never stops talking.
Bruneau said the basic story of The Craftsman’s Crucible is that of a man who grew up in a home with a World War II veteran for a father and a mother who was strong in her Christian faith but had been sexually abused as a child. He said, “The lack of a father’s affection and psychological turmoil resulting from his mother’s abuse left many emotional scars on the child. The book describes the many paths taken in his life, in order to rectify an image of black and white, held in low esteem for so long, into a portrait of living color.”
Growing up in New England, he describes his grandmother as his savior. “My grandparents had a lot to do with raising me,” he said. The oldest child in the family, Bruneau suffered the effects of a cold father and a mother who was absent for weeks at a time in mental institutions. When Bruneau was 12, his father told about holding him over a vaporizer soon after he was born because he had bronchitis. His father told him, “I should have let you drown in your own snot.”
Bruneau spent many years trying to find faith in himself. He said he has flown upside down in WWI airplanes, bungee jumped the longest cord in the world, jumped out of planes, climbed mountains, and more – all designed to challenge his fears and strengthen his resolve.
He moved to the Charleston area in the 1990s to monitor a ship building contract for nuclear subs in Bushy Park. He had some college credits and looked for a college in the area to finish an English degree. He chose CSU and attended classes at night full time while working during the day.
After graduating, he said he began putting ideas on paper. “Any time I needed to sort out feelings I knew were strong, I wrote a poem about it,” said Bruneau. The poems are scattered through the book, evidence of what he was thinking. One reason he wrote the book was to help his children know him better.
When he was 46 years old, he received a call from his father asking for help. His father was terminally ill and needed someone to take care of him. Bruneau said the influence of his mother’s Christian upbringing helped him make the decision to help his father. During the last five years of his father’s life, Bruneau and his wife cared for him, bringing him to live in a cottage on their property, and during that time they mended a lot of fences. “The last thing he said to me was, ‘thank God you’re still here,’” said Bruneau.
Bruneau credits his CSU education and his English professors for his good book reviews. “What I want out of this book is to maybe give someone who has no one to talk to someone to talk to,” he said.
To purchase a copy of the book, email Bruneau at firstname.lastname@example.org.