The Wise and Foolish Virgins


426 pages
ISBN 0-676-97099-0
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is the trade, scholarly, and reference editor of the
Canadian Book Review Annual.


Don Hannah is an award-winning playwright whose works include The Wooden
Hill, a haunting memory play based on the journals of L.M. Montgomery.
The Wise and Foolish Virgins, his first novel, presents a much broader
canvas as it explores troubled family relationships and unfulfilled
longings in Membartouche, a small New Brunswick town.

Hannah’s characters lead lives of desperation, quiet and not so
quiet. Sandy Whyte, the surviving member of one of the town’s most
respected families, forms and then acts on a dangerous and delusional
passion for a young man. Margaret, a fundamentalist Christian, assists
the young man’s pregnant girlfriend while struggling with the
devastating effects of an incestuous family relationship. AIDS-stricken
Raymond, the brother of Sandy’s cleaning lady (who as a child claimed
to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary), returns to Membartouche with
his similarly stricken lover for one last family visit. Sandy’s
desperate action early on in the novel sets the stage for a climactic
convergence of these characters.

If the resolution is somewhat pat, the intricate journey toward it is
wholly persuasive. The novel’s intersecting storylines and disturbed
but sympathetic characters give powerful expression to its overarching
theme of how fantasy and illusion can both protect and destroy. In spare
and refreshingly unpretentious prose, Hannah captures the inner workings
of dysfunctional families and the fleeting moments of reconciliation
that from time to time grace even the worst of them.


Hannah, Don., “The Wise and Foolish Virgins,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,