Heart's Longing: Newfoundland, New York and the Distance Home


200 pages
ISBN 1-55054-116-1
DDC C818'.5409





Reviewed by R. Gordon Moyles

R.G. Moyles is a professor of English at the University of Alberta and
the co-author of Imperial Dreams and Colonial Realities: British Views
of Canada, 1880–1914.


“I want to belong. In that regard I’m probably no different from
anybody drawing breath on this earth. To belong. To be longing for. And
it is for home that the longing is most deeply felt.” So begins
Lawrence O’Toole—well-known writer for the New York Times,
Harper’s Bazaar, Saturday Night, and other popular magazines—in a
book that is one of the most passionate, vivid, and beautiful personal
memoirs I have ever read. At one level, it is a brilliant re-creation of
life in Newfoundland some 40 years ago, told with love and discernment,
with a candor and close attention to detail that has rarely been
achieved in any book on Newfoundland before. The varied points of view,
the shifts from New York to Heart’s Long, the evocation of boyhood
sights and sounds are engrossing—I simply could not put this book
down, and as soon as I finished it I wanted to read it again. Rarely
have I been so moved by the experience of reading a book or so
enraptured by its author’s style.

For Heart’s Longing is much more than an evocation of place. It
expresses a yearning to belong and a fear of belonging. O’Toole’s
agony regarding his homosexuality, complicated by deep religious and
humanitarian feelings in communities (family, Newfoundland, Toronto)
where love does not always overrule passion, is indeed poignantly
revealed, though he is never angry or accusing. “Since home is where
you are loved, gay people are merely looking for a home, too, except in
different locations than so-called ‘normal’ people.” O’Toole’s
journey, therefore, is a journey to find love and acceptance and
himself; his book is not merely a record of that journey but is part of
the journey itself. And he graciously allows us to share his journey, a
gift for which many of us will be forever grateful.


OtooleO'Toole, Lawrence., “Heart's Longing: Newfoundland, New York and the Distance Home,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/1087.