Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Everybody Has Everything

Title: Everybody Has Everything (Amazon)
Author: Katrina Onstad
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2012
Rating: 7/10

Review: I received a copy of this novel as a present and the author is completely new to me, so I started out without any particular expectations. The novel is set in Toronto. Ana and James unexpectedly find themselves in charge of two-year-old Finn when Finn's parents are in an accident. His father dies and his mother is in a coma and their will stipulates that Ana and James would be the guardians for the child. They take on the child and in the process learn a lot about themselves.

Everybody Has Everything is one of those novels where nothing really happens. Half the plot is described in the paragraph above and the rest could be told in four more sentences. This is not action-packed to say the least. But that's not to say it isn't engrossing, because I finished reading the book in pretty much one sitting.

It is one of those narratives that is all about getting into someone's head. And in order to do so, the author is showing the reader their lives, their daily decisions, their reactions, their interactions. I am a bit ambivalent on whether I actually enjoyed getting into the characters' heads. They are both interesting, but at the same time a bit off-putting. All the tiptoeing around each other, all the inner drama, all the indecision were both very realistic and exasperating at the same time.

Onstad did a pretty good job capturing the details, it all felt very natural, but at the same time it made me feel a bit frustrated with the whole thing. The novel wasn't moving anywhere for quite awhile and even in retrospect I don't know why some of the scenes needed to be there at all.

Much of the novel revolves around the decision to have kids or to be judged for not having them. Ana and James are not able to conceive, so they are quite familiar with the latter. However, after taking guardianship of Finn, what's involved in the first decision is quite a shock on their marriage despite the fact that the kid is generally impressively well-behaved in the book. Things fall apart pretty quickly with both parties at fault. There's much in that process that anyone could relate to, but it's a bit agonizing to watch it happening so slowly and obviously.

The ending is actually a bit better than I expected and I was rather satisfied with the wrap-up. The final scene is a bit too literary high-brow for me, but oh well. Altogether, it is an interesting character study, parts of it left me cold and I am not entirely sure this is an author I would pick up again.


  1. You read really fast.

    Sounds like this was a miss… I remember being a bit turned off by both main characters as well, which obviously didn't endear me to them but made them feel three-dimensional.

    I don't remember the ending but recall rolling my eyes at the melodrama of 'Where's Finn.'

    I'll do better.

    1. I still enjoyed it, but I guess I just didn't identify with the book as much despite expecting to. After all, I get "when are you going to have a baby" questions all the time... but something in the book just didn't click with me.

      I work in a very male-dominated office, like Ana, but her attitude towards other women in the office is really odd. In fact, I generally thought I should identify with Ana really well, but instead found her just a bit off tune.

      Looking forward to reading the other book you sent when I get a bit more free time.