Cover image for Some great thing
Some great thing
McAdam, Colin.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Orlando : Harcourt, [2004]

Physical Description:
403 pages ; 24 cm
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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Jerry McGuinty is a simple, self-made builder who claims he can plaster a wall that will change your life. Simon Struthers is a disaffected businessman who proves the old adage about money and happiness. Together they face the new Ottawa of the seventies: brash, bright, and ready for the taking.

With their different careers and successes, these two strangers seek to carve out their own happiness-Jerry with his new wife, Simon with his endless affairs and intrigues. But love can be suffocated by the drive to succeed, and individuals crushed by greed and progress. Only when both men realize what they have to lose will their lives finally intersect, and the story spiral to its astonishing conclusion.

Author Notes

COLIN McADAM is a Canadian who grew up in Hong Kong, Denmark, England, and Canada. Educated at McGill University and Cambridge, he now divides his time between Sydney and Montreal. Some Great Thing is his first book.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Urban planning and construction in Ottawa, Canada, might seem like dull subjects on which to build a novel, but in this compelling, bawdy debut, McAdam fashions them into powerful metaphors for the ambitions and personalities of two opposing characters, Jerry McGuinty and Simon Struthers. An introverted construction worker whose most reliable expression is "fuckin eh," McGuinty dreams of building better houses than the shoddy tract homes he's hired to plaster; eventually, he becomes one of the most powerful developers of suburban Ottawa. Struthers, on the other hand, is the master of the charming, vapid bureaucratic memo; the government's director of design and land use, he has a reputation for a smooth tongue in the office and among the ladies. Distracted by one love affair after another, Struthers feels age erode his promise until he becomes desperate to accomplish some great public works project on the same piece of land where McGuinty is determined to build his most magnificent housing community yet. Fans of Martin Dressler will appreciate McAdam's attention to the mechanics of real estate development, but his forceful, cartwheeling prose style is more akin to that of Dermot Healy or Lawrence Sterne. His first-person narrators wink and hint at the reader, and he sometimes indulges in stream of consciousness or other formal play. Some of these sections have more flash than substance the book's least successful bit is its first 20 pages. But McAdam redeems himself by fusing his housing narrative with a thoughtful exploration of the dynamics of home, where the relationships between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, can often be more loving than those between husband and wife. Technical prowess and a surprising empathy mark McAdam as a writer to watch. Agent, Bill Clegg. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Harcourt debut fiction: two men on a collision course in hopped-up 1970s Ottawa. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Kathleen on Wednesday"JERRY MCGUINTY WAS my husband for fifteen years.""Oh, yeah?""Twenty.""But Jerry McGuinty's rich.""I'm rich. From a phone call, I'll be.""But you weren't really married to Jerry McGuinty.""Watch where you're cuttin.""How come you're not rich?""I am rich. Where's Lisa anyway? It takes a phone call, like I'm, like I'm one of them people, you know, calling. Cut my hair. Where's Lisa?!""I told ya. She's sick.""What do ya mean, sick?""The clap.""Ohhh. Lisa?""Yep.""Who are you?""Joanie. I told you. See, it's here. Look in the mirror there. Joanie.""Joanie.""So your last name's McGuinty?""It is.""How come it's Herlihy?""It's McGuinty.""Says in the book, Herlihy. Mrs. Herlihy, ten o'clock, cut and set.""Don't you set my hair. I won't pay if you set me.""All right, Mrs. Herlihy.""Herlihy, eh? Haven't heard that in a while.""But ya gave that as your name.""Herlihy's a pretty name, too.""Herlihy is a pretty name.""A Herlihy doesn't get the clap. Not a Kathleen Herlihy.""No, ma'am, not a Joanie neither.""McGuinty's a name.""McGuinty's a name all right.""My name for fifteen years or so. Smoke?""No thank you.""Give ya some cheekbones.""No thank you, ma'am. I got cheekbones.""Where?""I got cheekbones as much as you was married to Jerry McGuinty.""Where's Lisa fer shit's sakes? You tell me where Lisa is.""I told you. Lisa's dead.""What?""She died last week.""Lisa?""Yep. Just after she married Jerry McGuinty.""What?""Lisa's sick.""You tell her to get better.""You tell me what it was like being married to Jerry McGuinty.""You cut my hair.""I'm cuttin your hair.""Arse. Jerry McGuinty was the biggest...You mind your own biggest.""Business.""What?""All I know is, I wouldn't be sittin in that chair if I was married to Jerry McGuinty. I wouldn't be gettin my hair cut by me, that's what I know, if I was married to Jerry friggin McGuinty.""I could afford! I could pay for more than this. Who are you?""I'm Joanie.""You're not Joanie. I was married to Joanie.""Joanie McGuinty?""Jerry. Jerry McGuinty was my husband for twenty years."AND I GOTTA buy cheese.I gotta buy cheese."Cheese?""Aisle three.""Three?""Three."I can count. I can count. Comb your freakin hair, you ugly freakin freak, is all I want, is all I want is cheese. Three cheese."Where's aisle three?""What?""Aisle three fer shit's sakes." What do ya want with cheese? "What do ya want with cheese?""What?""I'm so fuckin thirsty.""Do you need help?""I want some fuckin cheese.""Aisle three, ma'am. That way, ma'am.""What?""That way, ma'am."He was sweet, that boy. That way, ma'am, that way. Cheese? Over there, over there by that way, ma'am, ya grubby little freak. "Which way?""Pardon?""Where'd he go?""Who, ma'am?""The grocery boy. He'll bring me a stick of cheese." That's it, that's right. Run away."DRINK?""Ya can't drink here, ma'am. This is a hairdresser's.""I'll just have a drink.""Ya can't, Mrs. Herlihy. This is Excerpted from Some Great Thing by Colin McAdam 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.