My review will follow the publisher’s blurb :

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.


The Shoe on the Roof is such a tightly packed novel. This is the first time I read a book and thought – Oh this is going to be a lovely and light love story then think, um nope this is going to be about a friendship – foiled again, this is about a father and son relationship… wait a minute, it’s about the pharma industry only to arrive at the end and wonder what just happened.

See, I didn’t even read the blurb before reading a book. I just started reading and wasn’t sure what I was getting into. Have you ever done that ?

Let’s unpack this novel a smidge.

I found our main character absolutely fascinating – especially his childhood. Can you imagine being your father’s guinea pig and have your entire childhood on record for the world to read. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with that ?

What could possibly go wrong with bringing in a few unstable, delusionary homeless men into your home so you can study them in hopes of finding a cure to their madness? And what could possibly go wrong in signing out your ex-girlfriend’s brother from a mental institution to win her back ?

I really liked the relationship between Sebastian and his research partner. Their conversations made me smile. The humour that’s infused into The Shoe on the Roof is spot on.

What got to me the most while reading The Shoe on the Roof was the fine line Sebastian’s father walked as regards to research and medical practice. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn how some of the unethical things described in the book are common practice in the industry. While some people may find the brain banter a little too much, I was absorbed by it.

Reading this book reminded me of an in interview or article I read – it could have even be a Netflix doc. (I can’t for the life of me remember the source). Anyway, in the piece, a patient in a mental institution explained how he pretended he was insane in order to be hospitalised instead of completing his sentence in prison. The interesting thing about this was how difficult it became afterwards to prove that he was in fact sane.

The Shoe on the Roof by Will Ferguson was funny and thought provoking; the story really surprised me. It’s certainly not comparable to anything I’ve read recently. The Shoe on the Roof is unquestionably this year’s stand out novel.

The Shoe on the Roof by Will Ferguson – available now !
published by Simon & Schuster
384 pages
ISBN 9781501173554

An e-galley of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts and review.

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