The Son of a Certain Woman
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Here comes Percy Joyce.
From one of Canada’s most acclaimed, beloved storytellers: The Son of a Certain Woman is Wayne Johnston’s funniest, sexiest novel yet, controversial in its issues, wise, generous and then some in its depiction of humanity.
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.
The Son of a Certain Woman brilliantly mixes sorrow and laughter as it builds toward an unforgettable ending. Will Pops marry Penelope? Will Penelope and Medina be found out? Will Percy be lured into the Church? It is a reminder of the pain of being an outsider; of the sustaining power of love and the destructive power of hate; and of the human will to triumph.
Jew We’re worth more than ten of you On your feet, let’s hear you stamp! Can you spell concentration camp? YEAAAAHHHH PAPISTS You know the Papists are the best We’re much better than the rest. Let’s hear that cheer, you know it well All Protestants will go to Hell YEAAAAHHHH PAPISTS Pops came out this time to protest what my mother was saying in front of me. “He doesn’t understand a word of it, Pops,” my mother said. “We’re just having some fun, that’s all. Throwing a coming-out party
feast day of the Baptist. My mother often said that St. John’s was “my city.” On my fourth birthday, my mother, Medina and I went out for an evening walk in my city; at my mother’s insistence, Pops, our boarder and a chemistry teacher at Brother Rice High School across the street from our house, never went anywhere with us. It was a familiar sight, my mother and her not-quite sister-in-law walking about the neighbourhood, my mother and the woman who was regarded as the last vestige of her
set foot inside the house. He teased her that she had waited until the blessing was over to come visit because although it might be true that she was not religious she was certainly superstitious and probably believed in ghosts and was afraid of priests. Medina retorted that he was a hypocrite for kneeling as if he was religious. “I knelt to keep you in cigarettes,” Pops fired back. At St. Bon’s, I told the other boys that the Archbishop himself had come to 44 to bless the house. None of them
neighbourhoods, each neighbourhood at war with all the others for reasons either long forgotten or non-existent unless they had to do with religious denominations, of which there seemed to be no end, each one with its own school board, bus fleet, churches and schools, even the Salvation Army, which was known as The Lowest Common Denomination. Catholicism Central. It was a kind of smaller-scale Vatican City. There were seven Christian Brothers-and-nuns-run schools within a stone’s throw of each
excuse for everything, you saucy little crackie. You bless one more bus, kiss one more piece of pavement, make fun of the Holy Father one more time, and I’ll send you home to Penny Joyce without a tooth left in your head. It might be an improvement.” I slapped her in the face hard, as hard as I could. I left the white marks of my oversized fingers on her cold red face. Her eyes went wide and she put one hand up to her cheek as if to gauge how much damage I had done. “You hit me,” she said,