Tag Archives: Will Ferguson

A Bit of a Laugh, A Bit of a Think |Review of Will Ferguson’s “The Shoe on the Roof” (2017) Simon and Schuster Canada


For many of us who read, we have to admit we have problems grasping the way the world around us works. Is there something wrong with our minds when we do something foolish or make people around us shake their heads? And when everything in our lives – relationships, jobs, family, health – seems to build into one unsurmountable crisis after another, do we hang our hang our heads and surrender to the evils of the world. Or do we read in order to better understand ourselves and try to deal with those issues.  Of course we do. But what happens when we encounter a novel in which the plot makes us truly question our take on the reality of our realities? Hmmm. So how should we really take Will Ferguson’s The Shoe on the Roof?

Page 3 Chapter One

The one almighty fact about love affairs is that they end. How they end and why, although of crucial interest – indeed, agony – the participants, is less important than that they end. Marriages might linger like a chest cold, and there are friendships that plod along simply because we forget to cancel the subscription. But when love affairs collapse, they do so suddenly: they drop like swollen mangoes, they shatter like saucers, they drown in the undertow, they fall apart like a wasp’s nest in winter. They end.

Thomas knew this, and yet . . .

Will Ferguson’s prose always seems to have these elements of profound thoughts that all-of-a-sudden end with phrase that comes across like a dull thud. And this book is filled with such sections. The story deals with Thomas Rosanoff. He spent his younger life as a test subject for his father’s psychiatric tests which was the subject for a best-selling book. Now younger Thomas tries to escape that shadow that being ‘the boy in the box’ by trying his own hand at medical studies. But when his girlfriend ends their relationship, he decides to try his own hand at researching cures by bring in three homeless men who claim they are the living embodiment of Jesus Christ. But as things slide further and further into chaos for poor Thomas, he finds he must not only clean up the mess he has created but also deal with the voices inside his own head.

Pages 109-110 Chapter Seventeen

Is identity immutable? Or is it malleable? Is it transitory and temporary – something to be donned or discarded at whim – or is it woven into our DNA? Does it even exist? Perhaps identity is simply an agreed-upon fiction, a conglomerate of traits.

Thomas knew full well that the defining characteristic of our interconnected online age isn’t anonymity but reinvention. You don’t cloak who you are: you change who you are. In the either/or of binary equations, you can hide in plain sight, can dress yourself in layers: a dance of the seven veils in reverse. You can even claim the identity of someone else entirely. Your father`s say.

Two weeks, top. That was how much time Thomas figured he would need. A provisional custody order (one month, on review) would be more that sufficient. How much time do you need to jolt someone out of a falsely held identity?

He was equally sure that the request would go through without a ripple. Why wouldn’t it? It wasn’t as though people were constantly stealing mental patients. Far from it. Hospitals were always looking for people to take custody of intractable cases – family, relatives, halfway homes, community groups. It was a matter of paperwork, of filling in the right forms, clicking on the right boxes. No one would step back to look at the larger picture. No one would ask why a patient was being released into the care of one Thomas Aaron Ronsanoff.

Like Ferguson’s previous works, there are moments of profound insights while chaos and hilarity ensues. There are no deep truths however, more of a realization and a matter-of-fact observations about the human condition. In short, of moments of ‘hmm’ and `ah-hah’ that a reader will note before a page is turned.

Page 360

Outside in the dusty heat of summer, a city bus rattled past smokestacks and warehouses, straining uphill and then fighting its own momentum on the way down. (He) was inside, dressed in factory blues, toolbox on his lap.

The driver looked at him in the bus’s rearview mirror. “You seem familiar. Do I know you?”

“Maybe,” (He) said softly. “I used to be somebody.”

And the bus trundled into the haze.

But there is a serious note of truth in this fiction. The scenes have a sense of familiarity to them as do many of the situations that poor Thomas finds himself in. This is a good read for sure. One that makes anybody laugh and think at almost the same time.

Page 369 Acknowledgements

This book began with a story my mother told me. My mom, Lorna Louse Bell, worked as a psychiatric nurse at the Weyburn Mental Hospital in the 1950s under Dr.Humphry Osmond. She often spoke about her time at Weyburn and the stories she shared with us were, by turn unsettling, heartbreaking, occasionally uplifting, and at times inspiring . . . Although inspired by these stories, The Shoe on the Roof remains a work of fiction.

So I have to admit that Will Ferguson’s The Shoe on the Roof is certainly a unique and enjoyable read. Like Ferguson’s previous work there are certainly moments of profound insights followed by serious, simple thuds of truths. In short, a good read.


Link to Simon and Schuster Canada’s website for The Shoe of the Roof

Link to Will Ferguson`s website

The Dangerous Allure of Happiness |Review of “Happiness™” by Will Ferguson (2002) Penguin Books


I have been suffering from a malaise in my reading lately which is why I haven’t posted much on here recently. I first attributed that feeling to the warm summer months and a busy work schedule but then as I pulled out Will Ferguson’s Happiness™ from my ever growing pile of must-reads that looms on my night table, I realized that I am not alone in my cynicism of the saccharin that is plaguing culture this days. In short, I found a new hero in the protagonist Edwin de Valu.

Page 4

Edwin is a thin, officious young man with a tall, scarecrow walk and dry straw hair that refuses to hold a part. Even when dressed in a designer overcoat and polished turtle-cut Dicanni shoes, Edwin de Valu has a singular lack of presence. A lack of substance. He is a lightweight, in every sense of the word, and the morning’s commute almost sweeps him under. In the urban Darwinism of rush hour, Edwin has to fight just to keep afloat, has to strain just to keep his head about the deluge. No one – least of all Edwin himself – could ever have suspected that the entire fate of the Western World would soon rest upon his narrow shoulders.

Edwin is a very bitter individual who works at a major publishing firm. He is over worked, underpaid, perpetually drinking and smoking and has deadlines set for him that are unreasonable. One day a self-help manuscript lands on his desk in which promises to help readers lose weight, stop smoking, have great sex and find inner peace. Edwin dismisses the book to be hogwash, but in order to make one of those unreasonable deadlines set against him, he allows it out to be published. But instead of What I learned on the Mountain becoming a sad, unknown little failure, it becomes hugely popular, sending Edwin in a tailspin of ugly and unwanted successes.

Page 149-150

“Seriously, May. I’m not kidding. I have a bad feeling about this. We didn’t spend any money on promoting What I Learned on the Mountain. Not a penny. We didn’t send out a single review copy, and in turn we didn’t get a single book review. And yet, within weeks, it just took off. How do you explain that, May?”

“Edwin, you know as well as I do that the greatest sales tool we have is word of mouth. It sells more books than anything else. You can have the biggest, slickest marketing plan available, but poor word of mouth will still kill the best-laid plans of mice and publishers. That what happened here, only the other way around. It’s like The Celestine Prophecy. Remember that? the author couldn’t find a publisher for love nor money, so he ended up publishing it himself, hawking it out of the trunk of his car, going from bookstore to bookstore -”

“And that took years, May. Years of persistence. What happened with What I Learned on the Mountain took only a matter of weeks. And no one was driving around with copies of it in the trunk of his car. This was purely word of mouth. And you know what? Paul down in marketing did a reader survey when sales first started to soar, trying to figure out what was going on – you know how reactive marketing is; always trying to catch up to the latest trend and then take credit for it. Well anyway, Paul tested reader satisfaction with What I Learned on the Mountain, and do you what he came up with? One hundred percent satisfaction. That’s right, 100 percent, May.”


“So what, Edwin? so people are happy with the book. I don’t know why that bothers you so much. What is the worst that could possibly happen? People feel good about themselves. They feel happy. Where’s the harm?”

“That, I don’t know,” said Edwin. “But I tell you, it just isn’t right. It isn’t normal.”

While Edwin may be a deeply cynical and mixed up individual (and has a serious abusive streak to his wife’s cat Mr. Muggins), Ferguson has developed a character that teaches us that it is necessary to be cynical to what trends exist in our society. Edwin is a bitter fool, but he is right in his thoughts and ways to the world around him. And the world would be a very canned and boring place if it wasn’t for heroes like Edwin.

Page 188

It turns out Edwin was a gambling man after all. He just wasn’t a very astute gambling man. Evidence of this lay in the way he pinned his every hop on what the people in marketing were saying. Indeed, he was betting his very life on the wisdom emanating from marketing, which only underlines just how desperate he had become. (In terms of reliability, marketing is only slightly above the study of chicken entrails. ) Edwin had one week to live, unless he could convince Mr. Mead to pull the book. Which he couldn’t. It was too late for that. Panderic had already licensed more than a dozen spinoff titles and copycat projects. (Mr. Soiree, oddly enough, showed a distinct and to Edwin’s mind suspicious, lack of interest in writing any more of the books himself. “Oh, goodness no. Let the radiant words of other journey-questers fill the great vision. Let other authors carry the crusade forward. I’ll still be getting 15 percent on sales, right? And that’s list price gross revenue, correct?”)

Will Ferguson may have made his protagonist in Happiness™ a cynical and bitter fool but there is are real-life lessons to be gained from Edwin de Valu. Questioning not only the daily trends and fashion of our day but our lives in general is a thing worthwhile at times. Therefore Happiness™ is not just a good novel but a great piece of literature.

Link to Will Ferguson’s website

Link to Penguin Random House Canada’s page for Happiness™