The Divine Ryans

The Divine Ryans

by Wayne Johnston


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385495448
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/17/1999
Pages: 215
Product dimensions: 5.22(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.66(d)

About the Author

Wayne Johnston was born in Goulds, Newfoundland. He has written five novels, of which The Navigator of New York (2002) is the latest. His previous novel, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams (1998), was nominated for the most prestigious fiction awards in Canada; it won the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize and the Canadian Authors' Association Award for Fiction. His memoir, Baltimore's Mansion (1999), was awarded the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction.

Read an Excerpt

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."

What People are Saying About This

Annie Dillard

[Johnston's] books are beautifully written and among the funniest I have ever read.

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The Divine Ryans 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
thokar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great book that tells the story of the Ryan Family, strict aunts, nuns, the family funeral home, and the ghost of a young boy's father.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are a big fan of Hockey, you'll really like this book. However, I am not a hockey person but still enjoyed this book immensely. The plot is straight forward, the story of a nine-year-old boy living with his mother and sister Mary in his Aunt Phil's house because his former house had to be sold to keep the family business 'the daily Chronicle' afloat. Perhaps the most enjoyable parts in the novel come from Uncle Reginald's dry humour. He has a theory and an explanation to every phenomenon, whether it be the 'Apuckalypse' or hungry children in South America. This book is definitely worth the read and it will have you laughing out loud while doing it.