Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Son of a Certain Woman by Wayne Johnston

2.5 Star

Percy Joyce, born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, in the fifties is an outsider from childhood, set apart by a congenital disfigurement. Taunted and bullied, he is also isolated by his intelligence and wit, and his unique circumstances: an unbaptized boy raised by a single mother in a fiercely Catholic society. Soon on the cusp of teenagehood, Percy is filled with yearning, wild with hormones, and longing for what he can’t have—wanting to be let in...and let out. At the top of his wish list is his disturbingly alluring mother, Penelope, whose sex appeal fairly leaps off the page. Everyone in St. John’s lusts after her—including her sister-in-law, Medina; their paying boarder, the local chemistry teacher, Pops MacDougal; and...Percy.

Percy, Penelope, and Pops live in the Mount, home of the city’s Catholic schools and most of its clerics, none of whom are overly fond of the scandalous Joyces despite the seemingly benign protection of the Archbishop of Newfoundland himself, whose chief goal is to bring “little Percy Joyce” into the bosom of the Church by whatever means necessary. In pursuit of that goal, Brother McHugh, head of Percy’s school, sets out to uncover the truth behind what he senses to be the complicated relationships of the Joyce household. And indeed there are dark secrets to be kept hidden: Pops is in love with Penelope, but Penelope and Medina are also in love—an illegal relationship: if caught, they will be sent to the Mental, and Percy, already an outcast of society, will be left without a family.

Sabrina-Kate - 2.5 Star

I didn't know much about The Son of a Certain Woman when I decided to review, actually nothing at all, but I was drawn to the cover and I also love discovering new Canadian authors. I really wanted to like this book, truly I did, but I found it really ambled along, even plodded at times. I picked it up and put it down far too many times to count which for me is not a good sign as I usually can immerse myself in any book for longer periods of time than I was able to with this one.

I can say that I did enjoy the descriptions of St. John's as I love my country and always get some kind of thrill about stories that are set here. I enjoyed the overall sometimes intense Catholicism much less but did like learning odd facts like that gay people would be institutionalized to try and reform or cure them. It is interesting to see just how far we have come.

I can't complain about the details provided in this book as there were ample descriptions of everything except perhaps that at times it was overwhelming because of the sheer amount. Overkill to a certain extent. That being said, I felt like this book was almost like when you eat too much and feel sick.

I was sad at the lack of Newfie-isms in this book as it is one of the things I enjoy most about Newfoundland and I found the utter absence strange and almost disconcerting since even the Newfoundlanders that live elsewhere still use certain expressions.

The Son of a Certain Woman was just so strange that I couldn't get into it though I suppose I can therefore applaud the author for his incredible imagination. This is not, however, a book I particularly enjoyed and not one I found humorous though it was purported to be.

Thank you to Random House Canada for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

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