Imagine On Air presents Wayne Johnston

@ - MT
@ - MT

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Wordfest’s Imagine On Air presents Wayne Johnston and his latest literary tour de force: The Mystery of Right and Wrong. The one-hour conversation will start at 7:00 PM MT and will be hosted by literary critic Steven W. Beattie. (The pre-show will begin at 6:50 PM.)

The livestream broadcast on is free. If you RSVP, we'll send you a reminder on the afternoon of the show, as well as our unique Digital Doggie Bag after the event with links and extras inspired by the conversation.

We are grateful to Penguin Random House Canada for making it possible to connect you with Wayne Johnston.

About Wayne Johnston

Wayne Johnston was born and raised in Goulds, 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. 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 (1999), 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. Johnston’s most recent novel, First Snow, Last Light, was a national bestseller and longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin prize.

About The Mystery of Right and Wrong

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

In The Mystery of Right and Wrong, 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 28 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, a.k.a. 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 Hout’s 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. The History of Right and Wrong is a masterwork from one of the country's most critically acclaimed and beloved writers that is both compulsively readable and heart-stopping in the vital truth it reveals.

About Host Steven W. Beattie

Steven W. Beattie spent 12 and a half years as Review Editor at Quill & Quire, Canada's magazine of the publishing trade industry. His writing and criticism have appeared in The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the WalrusCanadian Notes & Queries, and elsewhere. He maintains the engrossing and often provocative literary website That Shakespearean Rag.


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