A Women’s National Book Association Great Group Reads Author, 2013
Shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Prize, 2011
and the Trillium Prize, 2008
“So,” she says. “Who died tonight?”
Sam Samson, meet Samantha. Sam’s a novelist: his dad has Alzheimer’s, his mother died of stroke, his wife was killed seventeen months ago in a car crash. Samantha, eighteen, is a cutter. She lives across the street from Sam’s parents’ house. Marijuana and loneliness spark an unlikely friendship, which Sam finds hard to navigate, especially as his dad’s condition worsens and the money for his care suddenly vanishes. Yet somehow, between a record player and a park bench, through late-night conversations about the deaths of Sam’s musical heroes, and ultimately through each other, Sam and Samantha learn to endure the things they fear most.
Starring a 40-something writer who stumbles through the small town he thought he’d left behind forever, and a marooned teenager who wishes she were anywhere else, I Was There The Night He Died is a saucy, swaggering look at loss, love, and the redeeming power of music in the twenty-first century.
Praise for I was There the Night He Died
“Sharp-tongued … as Robertson ponders family and home as well as ‘what it means to love someone and to lose someone and to have to go on living anyway,’ he presents an intriguing character whose very real troubles are offset by bright flashes of hope.”—Publishers Weekly
“I Was There the Night He Died, [Ray Robertson’s] seventh novel, is an absorbing and hilarious read, despite the most tragic of narratives … filled with sly wit and keen observation … an exceptional novel by one of the country’s finest literary voices.”—The National Post
“Problems increasingly familiar to baby boomers embroider Ray Roberston’s I Was There the Night He Died — aging and ill parents; the prevalence of Alzheimer’s; difficult relatives, and the attendant duties of ushering them out of this world.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“An uplifting read … the style is writerly, self-conscious and poignant … a redemptive story about love despite the prevalence and certainty of death.”—The Globe & Mail
“Ray Robertson returns with a novel that considers themes of death, loss, and self-harm, all presented with a folk singer’s slouched but sturdy backbone and a cowboy’s loaded smile … If there’s one thing Robertson gets just right, it’s heartbreak.”—Quill & Quire
“For Ray Robertson, writing is more than a career. Beyond a passion and a proclivity, it’s a way of making sense of a world that can often seem pretty senseless … For a writer so accomplished and prolific—I Was There the Night He Died is his seventh novel—Robertson is remarkably humble.”—PostCity Magazine
“Ray Robertson is one of those rare writers who has both swagger and soul.”—NOW Magazine
“Robertson’s style of writing is exceptionally readable; you’ll fall right into this book. His writing is wry, full of a poet’s wisdom in its observations on life and death, and replete with a dark (read honest) kind of wit.”—The Overcast
“I Was There The Night He Died doesn’t read like a lot of Canadian fiction. It’s urban, it has a lot of alt country and obscure rock and roll in it, and it’s not trying to turn anyone into a better human being. It’s just a great story populated by some very real, very flawed characters … many of us will remember fondly a life not too far removed from our own, and have a laugh on the way.”—David Worsley, bookseller, Words Worth Books (Waterloo, ON)
“Penned in the stark-yet-warm rock’n’roll prose that has become his signature … Robertson creates characters who dance and sing even as they suffer the malaise of life … [and] has a great deal of fun with his chosen profession, poking sly jabs at the stereotypical image of the writer while at the same time paying tribute to it.”—The Winnipeg Review
“A refreshing read that will surely please even the most finicky readers.”—The Urbanite
“The novel is portrait of a self-medicating man’s midlife crisis, a testimony to love’s persistence despite death and decline, and ultimately a passionate defence of the power of popular music to change our lives.”—Chatham This Week
“I have read and enjoyed some of Robertson’s books, including What Happened Later, David and Why Not? … The way he describes neighbourhoods and places, I can see it in my mind’s eye.”—Chatham Daily News
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