Book Review: We'll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night

June 23, 2021

Details from Audible:

Publisher's Summary

A blackly comic and heart-rending odyssey by the inimitable author of Down to the Dirt

Scrappy tough guy and three-time loser Johnny Keough is going a little stir-crazy awaiting trial for an alleged assault charge involving his girlfriend, Madonna, and a teapot. Facing three to five years in a maximum-security prison, Johnny knows this might just be the end of the road. But when Madonna doesn't show up for court due to a fatal accident, shell-shocked Johnny seizes his unexpected "clean slate" as a sign from above and embarks on an epic hitchhiking journey across Canada to deliver her ashes to a fabled beach on the outskirts of Vancouver.

Johnny's wanderings see him propelled in and out of the driver's seat of stolen cars, knocking heads with cagey cops, nearly decapitated by a moose, coming face-to-face with his incarcerated biological father in a Kingston jail, and finding surprising connections with strangers on the lonely road west. But most of all, he revisits the choices and mistakes of his past - his relationships with his adoptive father and a cousin who meant the world to him, and his first real chance at love with the woman who is now lost to him.

We'll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night is the story of one man's kicking-and-screaming attempt to recuperate from a life of petty crime and shattered relationships and somehow accept and maybe even like the new man emerging from within, the one he so desperately needs to become.

©2017 Joel Thomas Hynes (P)2018 Audible, Inc.


Initial Thoughts:

I had heard about this book, it won the Governor General's prize here in Canada. I had even spoken with a librarian here in Newfoundland both about the book and Joel Thomas Hynes, but like a lot of things, I forgot about it/got pushed aside. I did have the book in audio format, however, and the past month (or so, I don't keep track of this anymore) I finally got a chance to listen to it. I have also seen Joel in shows ("Little Dog" is excellent if you're never seen it) and movies, so I was looking forward to listening to a book by him.

Main Points:

So I'll say right away this book has a LOT of adult content. Sex, violence, a lot of cursing, adult (disturbing) material, drug use, and one really gross scene in a hot tub (you'll have to read/listeb it, not going to describe it!). Also worth noting is that the first 2-3 chapters are hard to get through. When I say that it's not they aren't well written, Hynes is an excellent writer and has a great talent for description, dialogue, interesting characters, a great way of doing flashbacks (I'll discuss that more a little later) but the main character Johnny is just really horrible (but he really grows on you).

Also to be honest I hope Joel reads this review and contacts me (I have had that happen before) as I'd love to discuss the book with him but that could be a pipe dream. One of the things that draw you in is how he can take something really ordinary (like walking through the woods or on the highway) and make it really unique and special. He also makes you see as the book goes on just how hard life has been for Johnny and that he acts the way he does because society and his past has in many ways broken him, he wants to have a normal life but just can't make it work/change his own nature. This book really made me think about the whole nature versus nurture debate. I'm lucky, I have never wanted for anything and I had a (fairly) normal childhood/adolescence. This book makes me wonder if I would have been a lot different if I had been born in a different family? It's a tough question that I just will never know the answer to. It makes you wonder that if pain and survival were the most important parts of your life (and almost all you ever knew) why would you care about any part of regular society or following any kind of laws?

Once Johnny begins his cross Canada journey you get to like him, understand him and yes even want him to get there. You see that underneath all the horrible crap that has happened to him (and stuff that he has done) he really is a good person deep down who wants to start over somehow. You see that he has become so jaded and cynical of the world (and himself), however, that he knows that will never happen. 

The book is not all doom and gloom, however, there are some really funny parts (dark humor often, which I love), and I even myself laughing out loud a few times. You do get a sense of what it is like here in Newfoundland and Labrador, along with some of our peculiar sayings and customs. 

The ending is (I suppose expectedly) quite dark, I won't' spoil it for you but it is to some extent heartbreaking and certainly not what some small part of me hoped would happen. Still, I am glad I got there and in a way, it is like the reader is on a journey with Johnny as well.


Final Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. I perhaps would have toned down some of the scenes and maybe even changed the ending but may be sticking to his guns is what won Hynes the Governor General's award. It is also worth noting that this book deals a fair bit with mental illness and suicide, also a lot with the pointlessness and repetitiveness of life. I would advise if COVID (or whatever else is going on in your life) has you currently in a bad place, don't listen to this book unless you are welling strong and well mentally. A solid 8 out of 10 from me and I would recommend it to anyone who can handle the ideas I've mentioned (and some very adult content.) Please don't let your kids read this, seriously ages 19+. I should add that sometimes the narrator doesn't pronounce all of the words right and he doesn't always get Newfoundland sayings/accent quite right but it's a good job. Excellent work Joel, I look forward to more from you in the future.