Donna Morrissey



What they wanted


"Donna Morrissey is an absolute terrific original."

David Adams Richards
"Morrissey stands out for her descriptive powers, her wonderful turns of phrase and the inner complexities of her characters...she writes of the Newfoundland landscape with the lyricism of a poet...Sometimes a reviewer wants to tell readers everything about a book, about all the layers of complexity, all the beauties and grace, all the revelations, but I'll restrain my enthusiasm in this case and conclude by saying: Read this book." 

Lewis DeSoto
Globe and Mail
"Everything is hyper-vivid in Morrissey's world, not excluding emotions, dreams and unresolved conflicts...Morrissey reveals the beauty and the terror of two economic realities, worlds apart from us and from each other."

Toronto Star

What They Wanted is "a compassionate, insightful and gripping look at a family dragged through changing times...grief is so movingly presented that readers will feel it as their own."

Winnipeg Free Press

Donna Morrissey is the author of three previous, widely acclaimed novels, Kit’s Law, Downhill Chance and Sylvanus Now. Critics have compared her to Dickens, Hardy, and Shakespeare. She lives in Halifax.

Donna Morrissey

Penguin Canada Fall 2008
Premium/DTV/Germany 2009

What They Wanted

As a child, Sylvie Now watches in horror as her father cleaves their house in two, and floats the halves to a hamlet forty miles up the bay. The fish are gone and the family must relocate. Left behind are the graves of three dead siblings whom Sylvie had never known, but their presence persists as the source of her mother’s fear —a fear that insulates her from her mother’s love.  
The move marks Sylvie’s first tentative, yet determined, step out of the outports.  She fevers for the larger world, both for herself and her vulnerable brother Chris who is blessed with artistic talent. Her mother Addie is gripped by a protective love for her son and is furious with Sylvie for enticing him away.

Brother and sister journey west to the booming oilfields to earn quick, hard cash, joining rough characters in a land tortured by screaming drills, life-sucking mud, and perils at every turn. In that throbbing angry earth, their lives are changed. Yet, out of pain and piercing grief, there is reconciliation and renewal. 

Donna Morrissey is a brilliant writer. Her heroic characters are ordinary people caught by cataclysmic change. We are awed as they face their challenges with humor, courage and love, humbling us with their nobility of spirit. This is a profound work set against a soaring landscape of beauty and majesty.


On the Globe & Mail's list of Best Fiction of 2008 

On the Globe & Mail Bestseller list




Get to know Donna Morrissey. Click here for a short film:


Donna Morrissey's website: 


Click here for an article in the National Post about Donna Morrissey's hometown, The Beaches in Newfoundland: