The Story of Bobby O'Malley


190 pages
ISBN 0-88750-609-7





Reviewed by Les Harding

Les Harding is author of The Voyages of Lesser Men: Thumbnail Sketches
in Canadian Exploration.


The title of this book is as plain as the story it tells. In a series of vivid episodes we are shown the life of one Bobby O’Malley from the ages of eight to sixteen. The premise is hardly original, but the author’s handling of it is. He breathes new life into an old situation.

Young Bobby O’Malley lives in Newfoundland. He has to deal with the trauma of a Catholic boyhood and with his wildly mismatched parents — his conservative, religious mother and his wacky, irreverent, TV weatherman father. Though the author puts in some local color and has an accurate ear for the dialect, the fact that the story takes place in Newfoundland is not important. It could be anywhere. The characters are essentially rootless and isolated. Television is their only outlet to the world. Bobby’s family is forever watching TV and moving from house to house. Bobby feels as if his life were a string of beads. “And yet it was not so much the houses as the world from the window that changed, as if all those years our one house was slowly turning... It struck me how all my life, I had been leaving people and places behind and yet saw those people and places every day. The truth was that I had left nothing behind, but had had, in the midst of many friendships, to see friends fade to mere acquaintances, and homes to houses, overnight.”

This may sound gloomy, but the reader will laugh as much as he will cry. The story of Bobby’s Dad fixing the septic tank is unforgettable. Of course, the humor makes the final tragedy all the more intense.

The Story of Bobby O’Malley is the winner of the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada first-novel award. Wayne Johnston, the 27-year-old author, worked as a reporter for the St. John’s Daily News. He is now living in Fredericton where he is working on a second novel. I look forward to reading it.


Johnston, Wayne, “The Story of Bobby O'Malley,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,