The Shoe on the Roof

The Shoe on the Roof

Imagine...meeting someone with the same name, the same history, the same family, the same identity as you. Now, imagine meeting another person making the same exact claim. What would that do to you?

From the Giller Prize–winning novelist of 419 comes the startling, funny, and heartbreaking story of a psychological experiment gone wrong.

Ever since his girlfriend ended their relationship, Thomas Rosanoff’s life has been on a downward spiral. A gifted med student, he has spent his entire adulthood struggling to escape the legacy of his father, an esteemed psychiatrist who used him as a test subject when he was a boy. Thomas lived his entire young life as the “Boy in the Box,” watched by researchers behind two-way glass.

But now the tables have turned. Thomas is the researcher, and his subjects are three homeless men, all of whom claim to be messiahs—but no three people can be the one and only saviour of the world. Thomas is determined to “cure” the three men of their delusions, and in so doing save his career—and maybe even his love life. But when Thomas’s father intervenes in the experiment, events spin out of control, and Thomas must confront the voices he hears in the labyrinth of his own mind.

The Shoe on the Roof is an explosively imaginative tour de force, a novel that questions our definitions of sanity and madness, while exploring the magical reality that lies just beyond the world of scientific fact.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 384 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501173561 | 
  • October 2017
List Price $9.99 (price may vary by retailer)

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Reading Group Guide

The Shoe on the Roof
Will Ferguson
Reading Group Guide

Topics & Questions for Book Clubs

1. Sister Frances tells Thomas that “Science can only take us so far. . . . There will always be something just out of reach. Something elusive. We might as well call it God.” What does The Shoe on the Roof ultimately say about the tension between science and faith?

2. After Thomas and Amy break up, Thomas complains that love serves no evolutionary purpose, but merely produces “temporary madness, when all is said and done.” How are the ideas of love and madness intertwined in The Shoe on the Roof?

3. How does Thomas’s childhood as “the Boy in the Box” shape him? Does it change how he relates to others?

4. What role does Sister Francis play in Thomas’s life? What influence, if any, does she have on Thomas?

5. Religion plays an important role throughout the novel. How does religion shape the lives of each of the characters? Is it for better or for worse?

6. Not wanting to live under the shadow of his father, Thomas adopts his mother’s surname, and in doing so, alters his identity. How does the importance of names affect Thomas and other characters throughout the novel?

7. Thomas is simultaneously drawn to and infuriated by Eli, Sebastian, and the Magician. Discuss why there is a push and pull between Thomas and his test subjects.

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More Books from this Author

The Look Book offers a sample of groundbreaking and exciting new books on the Fall 2017 Simon & Schuster Canada list.

Dip into the latest masterwork from the winner of Canada’s top fiction prize. Hear stories from Canada’s courageous veterans. Consider the future of our country with an investigation into the oil sands and a look at the risks Canadians face in the wake of Brexit and Donald Trump. And because it’s not Fall in Canada without talking hockey, curl up with a book...

About the Author

Will Ferguson
Photograph by Genki Alex Ferguson

Will Ferguson

Will Ferguson is the author of four novels, including 419, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize. A three-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, he has been nominated for both a Commonwealth Prize and an IMPAC Dublin Award. The Shoe on the Roof is his most recent novel. Will Ferguson lives in Calgary. Visit him at