“While the book’s most apt comparison is likely Frank McCourt’s story of his Irish childhood in Limerick, “Angela’s Ashes,” “Jennie’s Boy” is, if anything, even more powerful: a compressed, restrained account of a life lived on the edge, not only in poverty, but at the cusp of mortality. A simple fishing trip, for example, becomes a near-tragic event, a life-shaping incident depicted with an emotional directness. Never overblown or sentimental, “Jennie’s Boy” is as vivid as one’s own memories, a glimpse into a past of pain and wonder, of loss and joy.”
“Beautifully written, Jennie’s Boy is an excellent example of narrative nonfiction that captures the reader’s attention and doesn’t let go until the book’s apposite ending.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Johnston recounts his childhood with affection and humor. Happily, and somewhat miraculously, he grew up to be a healthy adult. A tender memoir.”
“Jennie’s Boy is a warm memoir that recalls a childhood year filled with difficulties, but also a family’s love.”
“All I have ever done,” Wayne Johnston writes in Jennie’s Boy, his account of growing up dirt-poor in Newfoundland, “is repeat what I was told.” Be grateful for that: the result is a story so vibrant and detailed you don’t read it so much as you race along and relive it, blow by staggering blow. The man is incapable of writing a dull sentence. The Johnstons of Newfoundland are poorer than Steinbeck’s Joads, funnier than the McCourts of Angela’s Ashes, and every bit as worthy as material. Which makes sense: there was no place on earth quite like bottomed-out Newfoundland, and there is no better book about it than this one. A brilliant and unforgettable story told by one of the masters of Canadian literature.
“I have been a Wayne Johnston fan since my teens. His books are the ones that showed me that my own backyard was worth writing about. In Jennie’s Boy, a glorious tale of bedmobiles and jug baths drawn from his own life, he showed me what was behind closed doors just up the road from me. Like the best Newfoundland storytellers do, he made me laugh and then pause to think of how we can find love and joy in a most untraditional childhood.”
“Wayne Johnston’s childhood in Newfoundland was full of laughter, pain and poverty. And then laughter again. His memoir, Jennie’s Boy, is an uplifting account of a childhood not just survived—he came close to death too many times to count—but triumphed over. Thank god he lived to tell the tale.”