The Master of Happy Endings
From one of Canada's master storytellers comes a powerful new novel about memory, belonging, helping others, and the vagaries of the human heart. It is also a compelling story about how a man in his late seventies manages to conjure one more great adventure for himself.
Axel Thorstad lives in a shack on a remote island off the coast of British Columbia. Once a popular school teacher and thespian who touched the lives of hundreds of his students, he now lives in retirement and mourns the recent death of his wife. His fellow islanders worry about his eccentricities and whether he is getting 'bushed' due to his remote hermit-like way of life.
But even this stoical giant of a 77-year-old finds the isolation too much. He begins to run want ads in newspapers offering his services as a tutor, and meets the indomitable Mrs. Montana. She hires Axel to coach her precocious teenage-TV-actor son Travis for his school exams while he shoots a new episode in Los Angeles.
Travis and Axel make for an odd couple as they travel to LA together where this most affecting of stories unfolds. Because Axel's father had been a stunt man in the movies in LA and had died in an accident while filming, he hopes he might find out more about the father he never knew. As well, Axel wonders if he might meet up with the lovely and famous movie actor Oonagh Farrell, a lost love from his youth.
This engaging novel of lives and loves lost and found also gestures to the courage one needs in the face of the vulnerabilities of older age that all too soon beset us. Above all, it is a story that entertains as it illuminates the many shades of truth that make us so very human.
Jack Hodgins is one of the true greats in our national literary pantheon. This remarkable novel consolidates and, indeed, elevates further a brilliant writing career.
Read the opening pages (PDF)
Interviews / Reviews
"An irresistible novel about the vagaries of youth, old age, Hollywood, family, and the marvel of keeping going."
- Alice Munro
Quill & Quire - April 2010