The Hundred Hearts


2014 Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award — Winner

On April 7, 2005, an I.E.D. blast in Afghanistan alters the course of Jeremy Merkin’s life forever.

Still grieving the loss of his best friend, who was killed by the explosion, and nursing the physical and psychological wounds of the war, Jeremy returns home to find that nothing has changed, and yet everything is different.

Living in the basement of a house he shares with his grandparents, mother, and mentally-challenged cousin, Henry, Jeremy smokes marijuana to combat his constant pain. He begins a career as a high school teacher, but memories of the war, the physical limitations caused by his injuries and a criminal accusation threaten to end his teaching career before it’s even begun.

After Helen, the matriarch of the family, dies in her sleep, the already-dysfunctional Merkin clan comes unglued. Jeremy contacts his father, who lives in a local mental institution, to seek advice, only to discover that his grandfather has been hiding a dark secret from his family. His discovery of the secret alters the way he sees his family, and himself, forever.

Amidst all this chaos, his cousin runs away from home to find his mother in New York City. Knowing Henry can’t possibly survive the trip on his own, Jeremy races across the country to find him. While in New York, Jeremy’s world is altered yet again, as more family secrets are uncovered, this time with dreadful consequences.

The Hundred Hearts is a darkly funny story of the courage required to carry on after coming home, and the redemptive power of accepting and revealing our own secrets in order to move forward.


Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award


Kowalski writes in a style so natural that the reader is only aware of the story...highly recommended.

Library Journal

William Kowalski is the kind of storyteller you don’t see quite enough these days. The yarn spinner with a generous soul. The Hundred Hearts is a moving, humane adventure about the price of personal connections and the costs of sacrifice. I tore through this bad boy in two short nights.

Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver

The Hundred Hearts is writing as cinematic brilliance. Kowalski makes you look inside yourself at things you might not want to admit you've seen. A wake-up call sent from deep inside your own skin, it reminds about things you'd rather pretend weren't there.

Russell Wangersky, author of Whirl Away

A stunning and tragic meditation on the terrible burden soldiers carry home from the wars they can never really leave. A rich and brilliantly written story with welcome rays of humour to cut the darkness. Timely yet timeless.

Terry Fallis, author of The Best Laid Plans

Exuberant...Kowalski is a talented stylist.

New York Times Book Review

With a keen eye for the tellingly hilarious detail, near pitch-perfect dialogue, and deft use of Jeremy's ironic voice, Kowalski leads one far deeper into America's heart of darkness than one might otherwise be willing to go.

Kerry on Can Lit

...a deeply entertaining book that manages to leave a strong impression.

Quill & Quire

Intricately plotted, this moving story about the hearts of warriors long broken is timely, beautifully written and memorable.

The Sun Times

How many books do you read at once? I usually have two going at the same time. There’s the book you rip through, that doesn’t take very long, and then the book you spend an hour with every night, slowly. Sometimes you just want to make it last longer, to honour the care and the commitment of the author; sometimes it’s because the story is so devastating you have to take your time; sometimes it’s because you’re trying to convince yourself that by the time you’re done, the world might not be as cruel as the one that’s been written; and sometimes the book is like life, and it takes time to process. William Kowalski’s The Hundred Hearts is all of the above. Also, it looks like a Burberry shirt, only much cheaper and will keep a lot longer.

About the Author

William Kowalski

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
William Kowalski photo

William Kowalski

William Kowalski is the winner of the 2001 Ama-Boeke Award (South Africa) and was shortlisted for the Ontario Library Association's Golden Oak Award. He is the author of four novels, including Eddie's Bastard. His work has appeared on numerous international bestseller lists and has been translated into fifteen languages. He lives in Nova Scotia.