Saturday, October 20

Book Review: Everybody Has Everything

Title: Everybody Has Everything

Author: Katrina Onstad

Pages: 300

Summary: After a car accident leaves their friend Marcus dead and his wife Sarah in a coma, Ana and James are shocked to discover they have become the legal guardians of their 2 1/2 year old son, Finn. His crash landing in their lives through into high relief deeply rooted, and sometimes long-hidden, truths about themselves, both individually and as a couple. Several chaotic, poignant, and life-changing weeks as a most unusual family give rise to an often asked question: Can everyone be a parent?

Ana is a corporate lawyer whose dedication to an organized, elegant modern domesticity has grown of a messy bohemian past. James whose bravado and charm may not be aging so well, has been recently laid off from a high profile media job. Ana and James have tried to have children but it doesn't seem likely to happen, and while they've discussed adoption is still just an idea when Finn arrives to take centre stage in their lives, as 2 1/2-year-olds will do. Finn's presence, by turn delightful, heart-breaking, comical, and even frightening, as weak as the uncertainty of his mother's survival, illuminates the cracks in Ana and James' fragile urban existence.

My Rating: 6.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a book I was looking forward to reading, but once I read it I found I was rather disappointed in it. It wasn't necessarily a bad book, but it didn't meet my expectations and it was different that what I initially expected. I thought it might have been an emotional journey on parenthood. And while the themes the book did touch on were interesting, I didn't find it came together as well as it could have.

I enjoyed some of the themes in the book. Motherhood versus the working woman, what it means to be a woman without a child and the issues surrounding that, including emotional journey of the self versus societal views surrounding women who choose career over having children. For example; is it possible "have it all/be complete as a woman" and not be a mother, was a very important factor throughout the book. Although I did find that as much as I enjoyed the points the author was trying to make, they were often muddled, which I think was partly to do with characterization. The ideas started to form, and then they were left hanging, to work on character development. When you're not a fan of the characters, and don't feel their development went anywhere, it becomes a problem.

Characterization was a major issue for me. I found many to be stereotypical and flat characters. They didn't seem to have anything underneath the surface. How the lawyers, particularly the women lawyers were portrayed, was one example of this. They didn't seem natural to me, they just portrayed a general public view of what lawyers personality should be (harsh, over-organized, sacrifices family) and not one that is more natural. These traits are there, but it's not over-the-top like it was in the book, and they are not as prevalent as the book portrayed them to be. James also bothered me. While he did a good thing taking care of Finn, I always go the impression he was doing it for the wrong reasons. His demands on Ana, bothered me (which touches on the main theme in the book), and overall, he just didn't work for me as a character, and this heavily influenced my experience of the book.

In the end, had some good aspects to it, but also had a lot of aspects I didn't enjoy.

Would I recommend it to read: It wouldn't be on the top of my list, but I think some readers would enjoy the story.

What to read next: The other Giller Longlisters

Challenges: 12 in 12, 100+ Challenge, Canadian Book Challenge VI, Fall into Reading Challenge


  1. I enjoyed this one more than you did, but I also was expecting pretty much exactly what I found in its pages (though I was surprised by the final plot development as I wasn't expecting her to make that final move) so I wasn't disappointed on that score. I think it's deliberate that some of the characters, like the female lawyer you mentioned, feel restricted, even a little one-dimensional...because she felt that she had to BE one-dimensional. She literally had to close the door before she could even discuss her children, and could only function as a "Lawyer" with the door open, not allow the other elements of her identity to be seen (by her co-workers, by the reader, perhaps even, sometimes by her own self?). I'm not saying that makes it a more satisfying read, but I do think it was a deliberate choice on Onstad's part, because I think she can create nuanced characters (frustrating as they may be!). I'm guessing you won't be rushing to pick up her first novel?

    1. Not sure about her other book, likely won't be high on my list. I work with a lot of female lawyers, Very few are like that, how it's shown in the book was a stereotype. Some are like that, but the book just pulled in from stereotypes, what society thinks of what women lawyers are like, instead of the reality of it.