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“It is, I contend, no small achievement to survive the perfect family.” So Greg Malone says at the beginning of a graceful, generous and sometimes hilarious memoir of his childhood in the St. John’s of the 1950s and 60s.

A memoir from one of Canada’s comic geniuses that is as moving as it is funny, about a young boy who survives, among other things, a school run by the Christian Brothers, encounters with the bullies of New Gower Street and the perfect family.

We first meet Greg harnessed to a bush at a picnic wearing underpants on his head – a small boy squalling because he can’t take part in the goings-on. From here, Greg takes us on a wild ride through the streets of old St. John’s. We meet luminaries along the way, even Danny Williams, the future premier, sourly playing St. Bernadette in the all-boys’ play, with Greg hardly concealing his joy in performing as her “chatty sister.”

Humble, poignant, funny and authentic – this is a delightful first book from a natural storyteller.

I loved Barbara Lynn. Her sunny face was slightly freckled. She had blue eyes and her straight, caramel-blonde hair was pulled back and tied with a ribbon showing her high, smooth forehead. She had even, regular features and a smile that showed her perfect, white teeth. . . . We played house every day for endless summers and into the long winter nights, when she would take her big brother Basil’s long toboggan without asking, so the two of us could go sliding together down over the hill, under the pole light, across St. Clare Ave. and down into the Knights of Columbus field where the full moon glittered on the glazed snow, and the toboggan would fly along forever on the longest slide we’d ever had.

From the Hardcover edition.

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