Cover image for The divine Ryans
The divine Ryans
Johnston, Wayne.
Personal Author:
First Broadway Books trade paperback edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Broadway Books, 1999.

Physical Description:
215 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
Originally published: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, c1990.
Format :


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From the author of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams , "An absolute stunner--achingly funny, needle-sharp, and packing an unexpected wallop...the literary equivalent of a small-budget movie masterpiece with heart, soul, and brains"( Time Out ).

The Ryans of St. John's, Newfoundland, are a large and deeply eccentric Irish-Catholic family in the dual business of newspaper-publishing and undertaking--"one-hundred years of digging up dirt of one kind or another," as Uncle Reginald puts it. Enough Ryans also become priests and nuns to earn them the sobriquet "Divine."

The youngest member of the family is nine-year-old Draper Doyle Ryan, whose passion for the Catholic Montreal Canadiens in their battles against the Protestant Toronto Maple Leafs is matched only by his perplexity over his recently deceased father's regular reappearances, hockey puck in hand, in the house next door. How he comes to make sense of these visitations, his gently screwy relatives, and his own burgeoning sexuality forms the matter of this droll, wise, and effortlessly funny coming-of-age novel.

Soon to be a major motion picture from the producer of Love and Death on Long Island, and starring Oscar®-nominee Pete Postlethwaite.

Author Notes

Wayne Johnston was born in Goulds, Newfoundland in 1958. He graduated with a B.A. in English from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 1978. He worked from 1978-1981 as a newspaper reporter with the St. John's Daily News. In 1981, he decided to write fiction full-time. In 1983, he graduated with an M.A. in creative writing from the University of New Brunswick. His first book, The Story of Bobby O'Malley, won the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award in 1985. His other works include The Divine Ryans, which won the 1991 Thomas Head Raddall Award and was adapted into a movie, Baltimore's Mansion, which won the Charles Taylor Prize, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, The Navigator of New York, and The Custodian of Paradise.

(Bowker Author Biography) Wayne Johnston was born and raised in Newfoundland and now lives in Toronto.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

FYI: A film based on this book will be released in the fall. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

If hockey is your game and the erotic dreams of a prepubescent boy appeal, this is your book. The eccentric Ryans have produced such a quantity of priests and nuns that they have been given the sobriquet "divine." Draper Doyle Ryan lives with his widowed mother, sister, irreverent and supportive Uncle Reg, and dour and deeply religious widow Aunt Phil. The boy is obsessed with the fortunes of the Montreal Canadiens and is subject to "visitations" from his recently dead father. The first three-fourths of the book is fast-paced and witty, but it then takes an unexpected dark turn as family mysteries are exposed and power relations shift. Published in Canada in 1990, this is an earlier (and lesser) work by the author of the widely praised Colony of Unrequited Dreams (LJ 5/15/99). Its U.S. publication is timed to coincide with the movie version, starring Pete Postlethwaite. Buy where an audience for the film is predicted.ÄJudith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll., Bronxville, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Our house must be sold to help keep The Daily Chronicle afloat.  What better place for Aunt Phil to make this announcement than in the graveyard, among relatives who, by the way she looked at their headstones, might have all died to keep the Chronicle afloat?  to hear her talk, giving up the house was the least that we could do. "Their only regret," said Uncle Reginald, "is that they have but one house to give for the Chronicle ." We had moved in with Aunt Phil three months ago, supposedly so that the house that we were renting from her, at what Uncle Reginald called "the family rate," could be repaired.  The repairs were taking place, but we would not be moving back, not ever.  Aunt Phil said that we could stay with her for as long as we liked.  All of her children had moved out, so there was plenty of room, she said.  The rest of us said nothing, and no wonder.  When someone tells you that your house is being sold to help preserve the life work of your great-grandfather, at whose grave you just happen to be kneeling, there isn't much you can say.  Except maybe "We who are about to lose our home salute you," which was what Uncle Reginald had said ten years ago upon being told that his house must be sold. Lots of things had been sold to keep the Chronicle afloat.  We had once owned a marbleworks and a pair of flower shops, but these had been sold.  Other houses had been sold.  Uncle Reginald swore that Reg Ryan Sr. had bought up all the houses on Fleming Street just so that in re-selling them he could pick and choose his neighbours.  Fleming Street was what Reg Ryan had made it, Uncle Reginald said, a little empire, all of which had been left to Aunt Phil, and most of which was now gone.  Uncle Reginald had taken his disinheritance better than anyone had expected.  After the reading of Reg Ryan's will, he had turned to Father Seymour and said: "Well, at least he let me keep my name." All that was left of the empire, except for Aunt Phil's house, was its four corners:  the Chronicle and the funeral home, which we owned, and the orphanage and the convent, which we might as well have owned, given how long someone named Ryan had been running them.   The Daily Chronicle , Reg Ryan's (as the funeral home was called), St. Martin's orphanage, and St. Mary's convent.  The only money-maker in the lot was the funeral home, prompting Uncle Reginald to remark that, from now on, the family motto should be, "We make our living from the dead." Because there were so many priests and nuns in the family, we were known throughout the city as the Divine Ryans.  We had always been a church family, and had married into other church families, so that it sometimes seemed that all the priests and nuns in the world were related to us.  Our last family reunion, Uncle Reginald said, was known to the world as Vatican II. Aunt Phil's news was that much harder to take because our old house was next door to hers.  I could see it from my bedroom window.  In fact, because the curtains were down, I could see right into the rooms, all of which were empty.  One night, I stood there for a long time, looking at our house, wondering who would move into it.  Almost directly across from my new bedroom window was my old one, where I had often stood, looking out at Aunt Phil's backyard, hoping to catch a glimpse of Aunt Phil escorting Uncle Reginald to the hearse. I looked away from the window.  On the wall of my room was a picture of me which Uncle Reginald had blown up.  The original had appeared in The Daily Chronicle about a year ago when I had been chosen minor hockey player of the week, an honour that would not have been bestowed upon me if, one the one hand, my father had not been editor-in-chief of the Chronicle , and on the other, if he had ever seen me play.  In the picture, I was dressed in full goalie gear, face mask included.  I looked like some sort of insect, magnified ten thousand times, preening for the microscope.  At my skates, on the ice just in front of me, lay my nemesis, the puck.  The word "puck," my father had once told me, originally meant "demon."  For a time it had even been used interchangeably with "hobgoblin."  I made a mental note of thanks to that anonymous inventor of hockey who had had the good sense to opt for "puck." Excerpted from The Divine Ryans by Wayne Johnston All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.