On the Glossless Bookshelf: Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad

It might still be a little brisk outside, but my current reading material has kept me pleasently distracted.

There's nothing like a good read to get you through that last seemingly unbearable stretch of winter, where the temperature keeps on flip-flopping from almost spring to "baby, it's still cold outside". It's that time of year that an old friend of mine once brilliantly dubbed "Shinter", because even the snow seems to be tinged an exhausted brown.

I find that in this final stretch of semi-hibernation, when my skin is at its palest and I'm craving comfort foods 24/7, the only thing that can distract me from all that's dank and drab in the world is, well, reality television.  Apart from that though, a real, solid, character study sort of book is what I dig. 

Although the general consensus is that one should never judge a book by it's cover, I say screw it.  If the title is yelling your name from across the bookstore, then you may as well pick it up and head over to the cash register.  This was the case for me with Everybody Has Everything (May 2012) by novelist and Globe and Mail columnist Katrina Onstad.  It's one of those "things aren't really as neat or as tidy as they appear to be" kind of books that's just the right kind of heavy for mid-March.  It'll probably strike more than a few chords in you, without the emotional hangover that comes with a book like, say, Revolutionary Road (which happens to be my favourite book in history, but then again I'm a glutton for emotional hangovers).

Onstad's second novel centers around a married couple, Ana and James, who are unable to conceive and have almost given up on having kids.  A tragic accident leaves them as the guardians of their friends' 2-year old son, Finn.

While the set-up for the novel kind of sounds like a scenario that has played out before in a number of movies I've watched, the sensation soon dissipates entirely.  Onstad has the ability to probe into the very center of her characters, exposing their fears and failed intentions while still managing to keep them elusive enough that her readers will be flipping the page for more.

This book manages to ask very poignant questions in a quiet sort of way, such as whether everyone is meant to be a parent or is simply pressured and dissected by society if they choose or even desire to take a different path.

The fact that the novel is based in Toronto is just a bonus for me, as I love reading about my new city, whether it be a fictionalized Toronto or not.  After reading this book, I'm looking forward to checking out Onstad's columns, too.  It always interests me to see how a writer's voice transitions from creative writing to opinion pieces.

Now if only I had a darn fireplace, I wouldn't have to kick back with my feet facing the heater every time I wanted to curl up with a good book.