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What They Wanted

(Sylvanus Now)

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  427 ratings  ·  43 reviews
In her new novel, What They Wanted, awardwinning author Donna Morrissey explores both new and familiar terrain: the wild shores of a Newfoundland outport and the equally wild environment of an Alberta oil rig. After Sylvanus Now suffers a heart attack, family tensions come to the fore: daughter Sylvie must deal with her feelings of estrangement from her mother, Addie, whil ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 9th 2008 by Viking (first published September 1st 2006)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  427 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Jul 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Donna Morrissey is a wonderful writer, I would probably pick up anything she produces. It's been a while, but I think I enjoyed this story even more than Sylvanus Now, possibly because she draws heavily on her own experiences. This one is more immediate as adult memories tend to be, compared to childhood ones. Her strengths are mood and drawing the reader into the story. ...more
Jennifer Hatt
Oct 09, 2012 rated it liked it
I was partway through Chapter 1 before I realized this book was a sequel to her award-winning novel Sylvanus Now.
I kept reading, even though I haven't yet read the first book, and found the storyline well-formed and easy to follow. What struck me was the change in writing style from Kit's Law, Morrissey's first and highly-acclaimed novel. Kit's Law was rich in imagery and memorable, layered characters that annoyed in their faults and engaged in their strengths. What They Wanted reads much like a
Lynette Lepan-smith
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
True to Morrisey this is a book to make you think about relationships and the world we live in. Set in Newfoundland and the rigs of Northern Alberta she vividly describes the sights and sounds of what might appear to be two different settings but in reality are very similar.
Paulette Gauthier
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
I liked the way the author combined the two stories together; the older Sylvie and Addie with the story of their children. I wasn’t very interested in the oil rigs but the characters had a lot to say through words and feelings. It was very emotional and I realized that the author was telling her story through the voices of Sylvie and Chris.
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Based on this book (and The Fortunate Brother, which I read about a year ago) Donna Morrisey has officially been added to my list of top 5 favourite authors.
Feb 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: east coast canadians
Excellent read,I could not put it down. I have learned that you cannot assume you know what a family member wants out of life just because you grew up together.This book would be a great read for anyone who has moved to Alberta in search of economic security.
J. Stephen
Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A rich story of heartbreak, loss and hope, of displacement and connection. The agony of the failure of the fishery and the forced abandonment of the outports of Newfoundland appears throughout the story. Migration of Newfoundland workers to Alberta oilfields does not seem the salvation it promised.
Shannon Hartlen
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: down-time
I found this book to be a bit slow to start, but am so glad I finished. Donna Morrissey's ability to bring characters to life and capture raw emotion is next to none. I truly fell in love with these characters. So real, so captivating. ...more
Apr 30, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I love Donna Morrissey's writing but did not enjoy this as much as Sylvanus Now. I found the characters less sympathetic. Too many troubled characters. I would have preferred more focus on 1 or 2 characters. ...more
Paula Dembeck
Jun 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the second book in the Sylvanus Now trilogy.

Morrissey takes her readers back to the rocky shores of Newfoundland after Sylvanus has cut his home in half, sailed it forty miles down the bay to Ragged Rock and planted it on the wharf, vowing always to be next to the sea. The fish are gone and the family has relocated as Morrissey continues the story now centered on a new generation in the family.

The narrator is Sylvie, the first child that lived after the death of the three babies Addie
Faye Blondin
Jan 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
I would say a 4.4 for this book. Donna M is such a great author. I love how this book starts in Newfoundland, and then moves to Alberta. I am from Alberta and it wasn't till that section of the book that I got such a good sense of her ability to recreate the intimacy of a location. I felt like I was back home. I've never been to Newfoundland but I enjoyed the story there, but I know now if someone was from there her writing would have drawn them back and recreated the sense of the landscape, the ...more
Brenda Hoskin
Jan 31, 2021 rated it it was ok
I looked forward to this read. It's truly Canadian in every sense. While Morrissey has a wonderful way of winding words into poetry, I found the storyline to be without any real interest to me. From the day-to-day lives on the Rock to what appears to be an incredibly harsh existence on Alberta's drilling rigs, the first 275 pages was much akin to a chore that needed doing before reaching the sweet spot. It was not until the last 50 pages that I became spellbound. Not until the last 50 pages was ...more
Daniel Kukwa
Aug 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: canadian-lit
This is intensely much so that, combined with the Newfoundland dialect that permeates the text, it makes for hard going in the first half. The relocation to Alberta knocks the novel into a different level, where it begins to sing like a roughneck that ends with tragedy worthy of Shakespeare. Exhausting reading, but it leaves behind a very deep impression.
Sylvia Mailhot-Bryant
Not my favourite book of hers. I still think that Kits Law was the best. I did enjoy reading this one however at times I got very frustrated with the character I felt she just whined and constantly complained about everything and I felt she was especially annoying when constantly nagging at her brother Chris
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Story of family and love and loss and discovering oneself. Powerfully "real" characters and authentic dialogue. Adult children seek to help support their Newfoundland family when the fishing is no longer profitable, dad has a hard attack and ends need to be met. ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I didn't think Donna Morrissey could improve on Sylvanus Now, but this sequel is every bit as good. The perspective has changed to his daughter and there is one scene that made me sob so hard, that I could no longer read the words.

Powerful storytelling.
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yes! I know what a tholepin is..a bracket 'thing' for an oar!
Thank you DM for another wonderful story.
Now onto the next....
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
A wonderful writer. I enjoyed her book Sylvanus Now more than this book
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Super book. Family. Oil boom. Newfoundland. Values. Personal struggles.
Marion Listgarten
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
follows "Sylvanus Now" ...more
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Each book I read by this author, makes me like her more. This is the most recent one that I read, and I liked it a lot. I like novels from which I learn something, and this one is like that. I had no idea what it would be like to work in the oil industry, so when I got to this part of the story I googled "oil rigs in Grande Prairie". I could then picture the scenes taking place there. I thought her characters were well developed, the story flowed well, and was believable. I'm looking forward to ...more
Edwin Lang
I enjoyed the book. It was a good story, evoking a little of the Newfoundland hardiness and the wild west of Alberta's oil / gas rigs.

It left me thinking this morning what a human can bear, what losses, what guilts? We’re such fragile beings. And how does each of us bear it forward? It’s said that God does not burden us beyond our ability, but one wonders if everyone’s spirit is so full of the fortitude required to survive, or lucky enough to have someone to hold you together.

In Canada, I was t
Dorothy Lloyd
Realized that I had tried to read it once before and quit. Too depressing.
Shonna Froebel
Nov 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian
This is a follow-up book to her earlier Sylvanus Now. This book concentrates on Sylvanus' children, Sylvie and Chris. Sylvie has been working out in boomtown Grande Prairie, Alberta following her university degree. She has come home to be with her family when Sylvanus has a heart attack, and old family tensions arise again, particularly between Sylvie and her mother.
When Sylvie returns to Alberta, Chris insists on coming along and finds a job on an oil rig. Both children feel the responsibility
Cheryl Andrews
Aug 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
In the first five pages I’ve met the extended family, vividly seen where they live, watched in horror as Father used a chain saw to cut their house in half’s it’ll float through the channel of the neck, then load the two halves onto separate rings of steel drums and float them 40 miles up the bay. I saw the split-apart house reach it’s new location in the small outport of Hampden and specifically a salt-bitten wharf, where … within a relatively short time the two halves of the house were ...more
Mar 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-group
After talking this over at the book group, I am ready to read 'Sylvanus Now'. However, I don't feel I was missing out by reading this first.
My favourite thing about the book is the lyrical writing and the strength of the description of the work in the oil patch.
My least favourite thing was the character Ben. His weakness is nauseating. He has guilt of monumental levels, but his plight is, to a major degree, of his own making.
Aug 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
What They Wanted (January)
A continuation of Sylvanus Now – which I remembered really liking (2006). This files the lives of two of Sylvanus’s children – Sylvia and Chris who leave Newfoundland to find their own lives on the Alberta oilfields. The book is well written – at times a bit too detailed re the oilfields and you just know that something really bad is going to happen.
Jan 19, 2010 rated it liked it
A good Can-Lit novel. While I didn't feel compelled to pick it up when I was away from it, I really enjoyed reading it. I found the Newfie dialogue annoying to read a bit though, but admittedly it did add to the flavour of the characters (But didn't some of the Albertan's sound like Easterner's too??) ...more
Christina M.
May 29, 2013 rated it liked it
I didn't love it as much as Sylvanus Now, but it was a good read. I was getting impatient about three-quarters of the way ("What is this book even about?!") and then sobbed through the last quarter. Like, struggled with controlling the sobbing. I felt my chest heave a couple of times and I had to take at least three nose-blow breaks. Donna Morrissey can write some beautiful tragedy, she can. ...more
Blossom Bitting
Feb 02, 2014 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this, but not as much as the first book, Sylvanus Now. Like many others I found the rig descriptions a bit much, whereas I never tired of the jiggin' descriptions in book one, further confirmation that I'm a Maritimer at heart, and have always felt a bit lost in the Mountains. I loved Ben's bit about not being able to fish, farm or nurse a mountain. ...more
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Donna Morrissey has written six nationally bestselling novels. She has received awards in Canada, the U.S., and England. Her novel Sylvanus Now was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and she was nominated for a Gemini for best writing for the film Clothesline Patch. Her fiction has been translated into several different languages. Born and raised in Newfoundland, she now lives in Hal

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“Gets silly after a while, don't it, hating something because you're mad at something else, you think? (Sylvanus)
It's like we went into hibernation after we moved to Hampden. Never did wake up to the place. Think I always blamed it for our having to more there — silly as that sounds. (Addie)”
“Suppose none of us ever left — how would we ever create new ways if we're held back in the old?"

Mother balked. "And what do you think happens to us who never leaves home, Sylvie — you think we grows stagnant like bog water? Sir, the things she says."

"I didn't mean it like that —"

"Praise the lord, I hope not, for there's not a minute in a day when the water's not changing its colour or the wind don't touch me differently. You don't have to go off to find newness, if that's what you're saying. Newness grows out of every day — no matter where you're standing, for them with eyes to see it.”
More quotes…