My Father’s Son by Tom Moore

Felix Ryan, a middle-aged high school teacher from Curlew, Conception Bay is facing the biggest battle of his life.  While attempting to stare down a serious mid-life crisis that leaves him questioning his entire existence, Felix receives a phone call from his ex-girlfriend Tammy to return home.  A big American oil company led by a larger-than-life Texan named John Baron and his crackerjack lawyer had begun purchasing land from the local residents with a plan to begin extracting oil from the ground.  As the town becomes divided over the potential new wealth a fracking operation would bring, Felix’s ageing and eccentric father embarks upon yet another crusade to reveal the truth about big business, religion and life.  As the battle lines are drawn, Felix is also confronted with the realities of his existence and unknowingly embarks upon his own crusade to take back his life.  My Father’s Son is Tom Moore’s sequel to the award-winning novel The Sign On My Father’s House. It is a story about the triumphs and tribulations of life and fighting for what you believe in.  

I rose from the table like a man rising from the grave.  I left the walls, the dust, the echoes behind, and I moved into a new dimension.

From the outset of the novel, the reader quickly discovers that all is not well with the main character Felix.  Standing, both literally and figuratively, on a wet precipice atop Signal Hill on a wet day in St. John’s is not typically where one would be standing especially when wearing black leather shoes, however, this is where the main character finds himself just like the icebergs making their way south, on their “ journey from water to ice and back to water again”.  The reader will come to appreciate these types of symbolic references that help to solidify the deeper meaning of an otherwise easy and entertaining read.  Punctuated throughout the narrative along with setting and plot details that are iconic to St. John’s and outport life really makes this book appealing.  After all, what Newfoundland Townie wouldn’t know The Ship Inn, Soloman’s Lane, Rocket Bakery and the Health Science Centre?  As the narrative moves to the small town of Curlew,  Moore invites the reader to bear witness to the soap opera-like antics of a small community that has become too familiar with itself.  From affairs to secret pregnancies, abuse and even murder Felix is finally forced to confront the truths of his life and the reader takes guilty pleasure in becoming a part of it. 

A #ReadAtlantic book!

In Curlew the past met the present: the old saltbox homes from the war years stood beside the new split levels of the 1970s.  Some of the older ones were abandoned or kept as summer homes by nostalgic offspring.  They mostly housed mice these days, and annual touch-ups were as much as they could expect.  Many of these annual repairs got lost in the world of good intentions.  Roofs leaked and eaves sagged in various degrees of neglect.  Some, well back from the road, had fallen in on themselves, desolate, slipping back into the invisible past. 

Author Tom Moore also does a superb job at developing authentic characters that are true to form, in the novel My Father’s Son. The lovely Ellen Monteau (Felix’s true love) is sharply contrasted with Tammy, the cigarette smoking, gum-chewing woman that ends up capturing Felix’s heart.  And of course, this story simply would not exist without Father, Walter Ryan, always at the ready to fight a cause.  Everyone knows “a Walter” but it is his crusade and dynamic personality that drives this story, helping the reader to realize the importance of standing up for what is right and eventually showing Felix how to be the son he was destined to become.

“Then what is the answer for Curlew?  And for Newfoundland?”

“Paternalism is no good. It leads to people like your last speaker, Reverend Stone, who says, ‘Turn over your lives to me and I’ll save you.’ John Baron has the same message. Give me your land and I’ll save you. It’s all the same scam.” 

“But Mr. Baron built a big hotel and a huge church here in the town.  Isn’t that a good thing?”

“No, it’s not. People can be bribed with those things for a time.  But the shallowness of materialism, and religion, and paternalism only stifles growth. The individual must grow, but can’t grow under the yoke of an oil baron, a fishing merchant, or a minister.”  

My Father’s Son by Tom Moore is a well-written and enjoyable read.  It is entertaining and often thought-provoking. Though not required, a read of Moore’s first novel The Sign On My Father’s House will give the reader an excellent introduction to this great story.

Tom Moore is an award-winning writer in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His first novel, Good-Bye Momma, became a Canadian bestseller and won a “Children’s Choice” award from the Children’s Book Centre in Toronto. It was translated into Danish in 1982 and into Romanian in 1979. The CBC produced a radio play version, and The Canadian Book of Lists named it one of the best children’s books in Canada.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Flanker Press Ltd. (May 26 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 230 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1774570327
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1774570326

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Stephanie Collins is a retired school administrator and teacher from Mount Pearl, Newfoundland. A lover of literature and an avid reader, Stephanie loves travelling, outdoor activities, and riding shotgun in her RV or on the back of a motorcycle. Stephanie enjoys writing about her travels, reviewing new titles, and is an aspiring children’s book writer. Her reviews can be found at Fireside Collections and you can follow her on Twitter @MrsCollinsNL.