The Program

Publisher: Vintage Canada
The Program is a unique work of stark humour and pathos that seduces its readers into the world of advertising guru Maury Stern. Through chain restaurants, forest reserves, Zionist summer camps, abandoned amusement parks and eastern European shtetls, the novel chases a mystery: what happened to Maury’s son, Danny, the night he was left alone with his uncle.

Funny, fallible and lost, Maury blows up his life attempting to find the answer. His monster brother, the bogeyman of Danny’s childhood, has gone missing: is Maury still his brother’s keeper? His mum, Bubby Stern, is plugging her brain with the contents of American soap operas to avoid the secret she has carried since her girlhood: why can’t Maury be a good son and make her happy? When a simple camping trip with Danny turns into another horror show, Maury takes one look at the reproach in his wife’s eyes and runs away.

Staggering under the weight of everyone’s desire for him to please be normal again, the wounded Danny can’t tackle the mystery of himself directly. Instead he disappears into the computer lab where he writes The Program — as a way to an alternative reality where the conflicting agendas of past, present and future may be resolved.

From the Hardcover edition.


Part 1: Morphology

Danny crams potato chips into his mouth.

Hey, Maury says. Give me some of those.

Danny turns the bag upside down, shakes it into the grass. Powdered bits drift out, empty crumbs. The boy crunches, swallows, smiles. All gone.

You little . . . Maury says. He ruffles his...
Read More


“In this intricate and beautifully written novel, Hal Niedzviecki explores the fragmented, displaced world of imperfect memories and hidden pain, and of the invisible slogans that shape our personal mythologies and those of our families.”
—Edeet Ravel, author of Ten Thousand Lovers and Look For Me

“The Program reflects an anxious age, a time when technology penetrates lives and the individual is a fragmented idea. A smart book, intensely and refreshingly engaged with the contemporary. It completely held me.”
—Timothy Taylor, author of Stanley Park and Silent Cruise

"Readers will be surprised at the dense, almost maddening complexity of thought in this ambitious, disturbing new book....Think Leonard Cohen (in his surreal, Beautiful Losers phase) crossed with the cyber-parables of William Gibson."
— Melanie Little, Ottawa Citizen

"The Program is fascinating and in every way original...Niedzviecki is a gifted writer, thoughtful and insightful."
— Bill Richardson, The Globe and Mail

"Niedzviecki goes to some very disturbing places in his new novel The Program. Soulful, beautifully written...[he] has definitely expanded his range and is taking new risks. There's tons of talent here."
— Susan G. Cole, NOW Magazine

"We feel as if there are no limits, but there are: the more we try to reconcile our understanding of how things "really" are, the more we find ambiguities and inconsistencies. When Danny falls into a coma following an accident in the woods, the secret of Maury's family history emerges out of its silent denial: did something happen to Danny one night at his uncle's house? But the truth has become lost in perception, semantics and just plain forgetting....Memory is a tyrant. We have no control. Reality has no respect for narrative. What's done is done. And yet, 'Something happened, even if nothing happened.' "
— Mari Sasano, The Edmonton Journal

“With its shimmering, fractured, highly contemporary vision, The Program is a genuinely original novel. Better yet, with its vivid characters, suspenseful plot and witty prose, it is also an immensely readable and pleasurable one. Hal Niedzviecki is a remarkable writer.”
—Margot Livesey

From the Hardcover edition.