From the author of the critically acclaimed, prizewinning and internationally bestselling The Colony of Unrequited Dreams comes an epic family mystery with a powerful, surprise ending, which features the return of the ever-fascinating Sheilagh Fielding, one of the most memorable characters in fiction.
Ned Vatcher, only 14, ambles home from school in the chill hush that precedes the first storm of the winter of 1936 to find the house locked, the family car missing, and his parents gone without a trace. From that point on, his life is driven by the need to find out what happened to the Vanished Vatchers. His father, Edgar, born to a poor family of fishermen, had risen to become the right-hand man to the colony's prime minister, then suffered an unexpected fall from grace. Were he and his wife murdered? Was it suicide? Had they run away? If so, why had they left their only child behind?
Ned soon finds himself enmeshed in another family, that of his missing father and the poverty from which the man somehow escaped. His grandparents, Nan and Reg, his Uncle Cyril and others, are themselves haunted by the inexplicable disappearance of a third Vatcher, a young man who was lost at sea on a calm and sunny day years earlier. Two other people loom large as Ned becomes Newfoundland's first media mogul, building an empire to insulate him from loss: a Jesuit priest named Father Duggan, and Sheilagh Fielding, a boozy giantess who, while wandering the city streets at night, composes satiric columns that scandalize the rich and powerful. In Ned, Fielding sees a surrogate for her two lost children, the secret that dogs her life, while Ned believes the enigmatic Fielding to be his soulmate.
The novel builds to a spectacular resolution of the mystery of all the Vanished Vatchers. Only Wayne Johnston could create such larger-than-life, mythic characters embroiled in events that leave us contemplating not only their tragedies and triumphs, but the forces that compel us all to act in ways that surprise and sometimes terrify us.
WAYNE JOHNSTON was born and raised in the St. John's area of Newfoundland. 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, which has been made into a stage play and is being developed as a TV series. Johnston is also the author of the Charles Taylor Prize-winning and bestselling memoir, Baltimore's Mansion. He lives in Toronto.
“Newfoundland is a brand on the soul of the people in this novel. Wayne Johnston weaves a compelling mystery into a sweeping saga of the heart. And amid a cast of terrific characters, Fielding is a signal achievement.” —Ann-Marie MacDonald, author of Adult Onset and Fall On Your Knees
PRAISE FOR WAYNE JOHNSTON:
“[A] literary giant who has god-given talent.” —Will Ferguson
“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)
“I heard Newfoundland writer Wayne Johnston reading at the Ullapool book festival in May and was immediately hooked: great prose, mordant humour and a fantastic sense of place. I’ll be taking a couple of his novels, A World Elsewhere and The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, away with me next week to read at a café table in Sliema.” —Wayne Price, The Scotsman
“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
“I believe Wayne Johnston to be the best writer working in Canada today.” —Craig Monk, Professor of English, University of Lethbridge, The Classroom Conservative (blog)
“If St. John’s looms large in the Canadian literary psyche, this is due in no small measure to the novels of Wayne Johnston, a native of Newfoundland’s capital city and one of its most diligent chroniclers.” —Quill & Quire
“Wayne Johnston is a brilliant and accomplished writer.” —Annie Proulx
“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
“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
“His books are beautifully written, among the funniest I’ve ever read, yet somehow at the same time among the most poignant and moving.” —Annie Dillard