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Novel cover of 'One Brother Shy' by Terry Fallis

By Terry Fallis

One Brother Shy

Published November 2017


From the two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour: a story about a man tormented by an event from his youth, and the journey he finds himself on to heal and to learn who he is.

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“Stephen Leacock Award-winning humorist Terry Fallis brings his usual wit — and a new level of poignancy — to this tender character study.”

— Toronto Life

“Terry Fallis is a brilliant and very funny writer who also understands the human heart. His words will split your side on one page, and put a lump in your throat on the next. You’ll not only come to like his quirky characters, you’ll want to meet them, and take care of them, too. Terry Fallis is a writer to watch, and more importantly, to read.”

— Ali Velshi, Senior Economic and Business Correspondent, NBC News

“Terry Fallis writes just about the tidiest romantic comedic novels you can find on Earth, let alone in Canada.”

— The Globe and Mail

“One Brother Shy is another wonderful example of the great gift of Terry Fallis: To make us laugh just enough we don’t realize we’re also learning. My only complaint with his novels is that he can’t write them as quickly as I can devour them.”

— Steve Patterson, host of CBC Radio’s The Debaters and author of The Book of Letters I Didn’t Know Where to Send.

“One Brother Shy is a two-for-one flight of invention, full of hilarious one-liners. A compelling and surprising tale about the discovery of the abiding importance and inspiration of family is twinned with a rich portrait of characters in keenly observed social contexts. The wit and brio of the storytelling belies its sensitivity and emotional depth and the many secrets waiting in the wings to be uncovered. Terry Fallis has written another fast-paced, incisive, and wry novel that doesn’t shy away from the enjoyably genuine and the genuinely human.”

— Gary Barwin, author of Yiddish for Pirates, a Scotiabank Giller Prize and Governor-General’s Literature Prize Finalist

“Mark Twain once observed that the “secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow.” In One Brother Shy, Terry Fallis locates this secret source in a very moving yet often funny story about a young man’s search for lost family, lost identity, lost confidence and lost time. In so doing, the author marries joy with sorrow. The result is a wonderful, powerful tale of pain and redemption. Treat yourself to One Brother Shy—you’ll get to see one of Canada’s finest storytellers at the top of his game.”

— Joseph Kertes, Leacock Medal winner and author of The Afterlife of Stars

“One Brother Shy is funny, heartbreaking, and sensitive, just like its reluctant semi-hero, Alex MacAskill. Terry Fallis has worked his magic again in this story of a young man battered by the fates and healed by his own courage and the kindness of an unlikely assortment of people. One Brother Shy is life-affirming and an absolute joy to read.”

— Susan Juby, winner of the 2016 Leacock Medal for Republic of Dirt

“…he’s pretty much got the market cornered on developing heartwarming and humourous stories.” “Fallis mines a wealth of touching and hilarious treasures, in his inimitably giggle-worthy way.”

— Winnipeg Free Press

“One Brother Shy is a charming, affecting book.”

— Toronto Star

Few people know the real Alex MacAskill. Most of the world sees a painfully and chronically shy software engineer in his mid-20s, soft-spoken, a bit of a loner, and someone easy to escape notice wherever possible—and that’s just the way Alex wants it. Because no matter how many years have passed, the incident known only as “Gabriel” in the MacAskill family is something that still haunts him.

But when his mother, one of the only people in the world who Alex felt comfortable as himself around, dies after a long illness, he suddenly has no choice but to face the very thing that he’s been avoiding since that night in high school. In an instant, Alex finds himself trying to piece together the mystery of his identity, and on a search for parts of his family he never knew existed—a search that takes him from Ottawa to London to Moscow, encountering along the way echoes of the Cold War, painful memories from his past, and even the 1972 Russian hockey team—a search that ultimately helps Alex discover himself.

With his trademark wit and captivating storytelling, Terry Fallis has written a novel unlike any of his others. One Brother Shy is at once poignant and humorous, heartbreaking and heartwarming, and readers will not soon forget Alex MacAskill.

Open book, page preview of 'One Brother Shy' by Terry Fallis

She died before she could tell me. That’s my theory, anyway. She thought she had more time. I thought she had more time – perhaps not much, but some. Clearly, neither of us really had a handle on it. Then again, even if we’d known, you’re never really ready, are you? No. You think you are. You hope you are. But you never are. But the timing was out of my hands, and apparently out of hers, too. I’d left for work that Monday morning as I always did, turning Mom’s care over to the wonderful Malaya, Saint Malaya. Mom wasn’t awake when I left. Hell, I wasn’t awake when I left. But lately, Mom had been sleeping more – deeper and longer – often for a good part of the day. It was somehow easier for her to breathe when she slept. Or perhaps when she slept, she simply was not conscious of how difficult it was to breathe. Malaya arrived at the apartment, as she did every weekday morning, at eight, and left each night whenever I made it home from the office, usually before six. That’s really all I did, and all I’d done for the preceding two years. Work. Take care of Mom. Shop for groceries. And see my therapist. My sessions with Dr. Weaver were Mondays and Thursdays at noon so I didn’t miss any time in the office. And trust me, I didn’t want to provoke my bellicose beast of a boss with extended lunch hours. On the positive side of the ledger, skipping lunch two days each week helped keep my weight steady at 170 pounds.

About Terry Fallis

Photo of Terry Fallis outdoors, greyscale

A two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Terry Fallis is the award-winning author of nine national bestsellers, including his most recent, A New Season (2023), all published by McClelland & Stewart (M&S).

Terry has written for many publications including Maclean’s, Canadian Geographic, Reader’s Digest, Toronto Life, the Globe and Mail, the National Post, and the Toronto Star.

Terry lives in Toronto and can be reached at tfallis@gmail.com.