|From The Publisher*|
A masterwork from one of the country's most critically acclaimed and beloved writers that is both compulsively readable and heartstopping in the vital truth it reveals. Wayne Johnston reveals haunting family secrets he's kept for more than 30 years, unfolding them in a novel that grapples with sexual abuse, male violence and madness.
Wade Jackson, a young man from a Newfoundland outport, wants to be a writer. In the university library in St. John's, where he goes every day to absorb the great books of the world, he encounters the fascinating, South African-born Rachel van Hout, and soon they are lovers. Rachel is the youngest of four van Hout daughters. Her Dutch-born father, Hans, lived in Amsterdam during WWII, and says he was in the Dutch resistance. After the war, he emigrated to South Africa, where he met his wife, Myra, had his daughters and worked as an accounting professor at the University of Cape Town. Something happened, though, that caused him to uproot his family and move them all, unhappily, to Newfoundland. Wade soon discovers that the beautiful van Hout daughters are each in their own way a wounded soul. The oldest, Gloria, at twenty-eight has a string of broken marriages behind her. Carmen is addicted to every drug her Afrikaner drug-pusher husband, Fritz, can lay his hands on. Bethany, aka Deathany, the most sardonic and self-deprecating of the sisters, is fighting a losing battle with anorexia. And then there is Rachel, who reads The Diary of Anne Frank obsessively, and diarizes her days in a secret language of her own invention, writing to the point of breakdown and beyond. As the truth works its way inevitably to the surface, Wade learns that nothing in the world of the van Houts is what it seems, and that Rachel's obsession with Anne Frank has deeper and more disturbing roots than he could ever have imagined. Wayne Johnston takes beautiful risks here, bringing the abuser, Hans, to life largely through the verses of the ballad Hans composes to indoctrinate his little girls. Confronting the central mystery of his own and Rachel's lives, Wayne has transfigured the "material," creating a tour-de-force that pulls the reader toward a conclusion both inevitable and impossible to foresee.
PRAISE FOR WAYNE JOHNSTON
"Wayne Johnston is a wondrous writer-of rich, irresistibly readable prose. He possesses a deft intelligence and a rare sense of what's truly interesting to tell about life." -Richard Ford, author of Independence Day
"Why I love reading Wayne Johnston: The reader goes skittering through Wayne Johnston's novels, driven inexorably forward on the force of his characters, on the power of his wit. Unlike most recent bestselling novels that are remembered for the plane flight and then promptly forgotten, Wayne's stories have characters who move in and take up permanent residence." -Mary Walsh
"Johnston belongs to the Robertson Davies school of Canadian writing, an engagingly erudite literary style that is rooted in history, fact and cross reference, offering a dramatic contrast to the brilliant intimacies of Alice Munro, concerned as they are with family and the respective failures of love and life. . . . Johnston is a natural teller of complex, textured narratives. . . . Johnston writes very well and is unafraid of balancing the harshness of men with their humanity." -Irish Times
"Wayne Johnston spins wonderful stories; he is a gather-you-round-and-I-will-enchant-you raconteur. He has absorbed the world around him-the tall tales, the history, the epic of a place-and adapted it to a narrative style that is clearly his own. His stories charm and beguile. He writes about the ordinary and extraordinary people of Newfoundland with great empathy and without a shred of sentimentality. At the same time his fiction has a mythic quality: Smallwood walking across the island through drifted snow; a father and son surviving a long trek through winter woods by holding onto a horse and one another; an iceberg with the likeness of the Virgin Mary. Wayne Johnston's fiction is subtle, his passion understated, his humour underpinned by tragedy. All of his work, superbly written, is a powerful combination of insight, talent and revelation. It is made to endure." -Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award jury citation (David Bergen, Joan Clark and Miriam Toews)
WAYNE JOHNSTON was born and raised in Goulds, Newfoundland. Widely acclaimed for his magical weaving of fact and fiction, his masterful plotting, and his gift for both description and character, his #1 nationally bestselling novels include The Divine Ryans, A World Elsewhere, The Custodian of Paradise, The Navigator of New York and The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. His first book, The Story of Bobby O'Malley, published when he was just 26 years old, won the WH Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award. Baltimore's Mansion, a memoir about his father and grandfather, won the inaugural Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, published in 1998, was nominated for sixteen national and international awards including the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction, and was a Canada Reads finalist defended by Justin Trudeau. A theatrical adaptation of the novel recently toured Canada. Johnston's most recent novel, First Snow, Last Light, was a national bestseller and longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin prize.