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Fiction Literary

The Master of Happy Endings

A Novel

by (author) Jack Hodgins

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
May 2010
Literary, Psychological, Action & Adventure
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2010
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2011
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2011
    List Price

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The Master of Happy Endings is a powerful new novel about memory, belonging, helping others, and the vagaries of the human heart. It is also a compelling story about how a man in his late seventies manages to conjure one more great adventure for himself.

Axel Thorstad lives in a shack on a remote island off the coast of British Columbia. Once a popular school teacher and thespian who touched the lives of hundreds of his students, he now lives in retirement and mourns the recent death of his wife.

But even this stoical giant of a 77-year-old finds the isolation too much. He begins to run want ads in newspapers offering his services as a tutor, and meets the indomitable Mrs. Montana. She hires Axel to coach her precocious teenage-TV-actor son Travis for his school exams while he shoots a new episode in Hollywood. Life in L.A. is far removed from his isolated life in rural B.C., and soon Thorstad finds himself caught up in the drama of his young student’s life, and the return of an old flame.

Set amidst the fleshpots, sound-stages and dining rooms of L.A., this engaging novel of lives and loves lost and found also gestures to the courage one needs in the face of the vulnerabilities of older age that all too soon beset.

About the author

Jack Hodgins was raised in Merville, on Vancouver Island, and graduated from the University of British Columbia. Until recently, he taught fiction writing at the University of Victoria. His novels and story collections include: Spit Delaney’s Island, The Invention of the World, Innocent Cities, Broken Ground, Distance, and Damage Done by the Storm. In the spring of 2010, he published his newest novel, The Master of Happy Endings (Thomas Allen). A Passion for Narrative (a guide to writing fiction) is used in classrooms and writing groups across Canada and Australia. Hodgins’ fiction has won the Governor General’s Award, the Canada-Australia Prize, the Commonwealth Prize (Canada and the Caribbean) and the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, amongst others. He has given readings, talks, and workshops in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and several European countries, and has taught an annual fiction workshop in Mallorca, Spain. In 2006 he received both the Terasen Lifetime Achievement Award and the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence in British Columbia. In 2009 the Governor General appointed him a Member of the Order of Canada. He and his wife Dianne have three grown children and three grandchildren. Jack Hodgins’ website is

Jack Hodgins' profile page

Editorial Reviews

Jack Hodgins has developed his own style, his one lens, with mythic elements, and he has made an enormous contribution to B.C. fiction in the process. As a trailblazer, he’s in the realm of Bertrand Sinclair, his Nanaimo born contemporary Anne Cameron, or playwright George Ryga. He has dared to be original.

BC Book World

The Master of Happy Endings is an exuberant novel about the power of narrative to serve as a compass for human odysseys. Hodgins' story is as much about the terrain of the heart and spirit as it is about the physical world and he moves confidently from one to the other, his literary skill in service to his rich imagination.

Jurors' citation, Victoria Book Prizes

Hodgins is a master of sweet irony. If the human comedy dictates happy endings, we are rewarded with Axel's circuitous journey from innocence to experience that leaves us instructed in the meaning of life.

The Pacific Rim Review of Books

An irresistible novel about the vagaries of youth, old age, Hollywood, family, and the marvel of keeping going.

Alice Munro

[The Master of Happy Endings] contains strong storytelling and powerful characters. Hodgins’ latest novel is a testament to the notion that the secret to a happy ending may well be not worrying too much. Thorstad is high on life’s rich pageant. His exuberance rubs off on the reader.

Quill and Quire

...soundly constructed and beautifully written... This modest Canadian protagonist discovers that some of the most satisfying encounters are found close to home. That goes double for the homegrown talent of Hodgins and his newest literary delight.

The Lethbridge Herald

The Master of Happy Endings is a novel of how the past shapes the present and how the present shapes the future, each in their own unexpected ways….Hodgins, a Governor General’s Award winner and a member of the Order of Canada, demonstrates the deft skills readers have come to expect…. The major characters are well-rounded. Thorstad himself is the kind of man a reader might want to spend time with…

National Post

Any new novel from one of Canada's literary icons is eagerly anticipated. His latest, a powerful story about the vagaries of old age, is bound to satisfy Hodgins' many fans. It certainly left a smile on my face.

The Sun Times

Other titles by Jack Hodgins