Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad


Title: Everybody Has Everything
Author: Katrina Onstad
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: June 25, 2013 (first published in 2012)
Source: copy received for honest review from the publisher via NetGalley

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

After years of unsuccessful attempts at conceiving a child, Ana and James become parents overnight, when a terrible accident makes them guardians to 2-year-old Finn. Suddenly, two people who were struggling to come to terms with childlessness are thrust into the opposite situation--responsible for a small toddler whose mother's survival is in question. 

Finn's crash-landing in their tidy, urban lives throws into high relief some troubling truths about their deepest selves, both separately and as a couple. Several chaotic, poignant, and life-changing weeks as a most unusual family give rise to an often unasked question: Can everyone be a parent?


My Review:

So here's my chronological thought process while I was reading this book:
1. "OMG, this is so sad."
2. "Holy crap, I love the little boy in this book, I want to give him all the hugs, and OMG this is so sad."
3. "OMG SO SAD, THERE IS NO WAY THIS BOOK WILL NOT END IN THE SADDEST OF SAD WAYS."
4. ((stunned silence as the ending manages to wrap up in a non-sad way that is not fairy-tale-ish at all))

YOU GUYS.  I loved it so much.

In the beginning, this book seems pretty straightforward: a tragic accident leaves Ana and James (unable to conceive children of their own) as the sole guardians to Finn, the 2-year-old son of their friends'.  I expected the book to take a typical dramatic-fiction path...sadness and struggles in the beginning, but then they find their way and become better parents for it in the end, ta-da!

What's awesome about this, though, is that it's not like that at all.  There is nothing typical about this novel.  Ana and James have a much more convoluted and murky relationship than I originally expected, and half the pleasure of reading this book is derived from watching it unfold.  Just when I thought I had them figured out, a new part of their pasts or personalities would come out to make me change my mind.  Their relationship certainly plays a central role in the novel, possibly more so than the car accident that originally sets the plot into motion.  It's also the reason that the plot takes such a sad turn, but as I mentioned above, Onstad amazingly finds a way to wrap things up that is neither too depressing nor too happy-go-lucky.

Much of Ana and James's relationship struggles center on one question: what does it mean to be a parent?  What makes a good parent?  And how do you know if you're meant to be a parent at all?  This book will definitely hold more interest for readers who are parents themselves, or wish to be in the near future.  Onstad does a great job of exploring these questions from a variety of different angles.  Her ability to dig at the emotional depths of each character is impressive.

Speaking of emotional depth, FINN.  Oh my gosh, I don't think I've ever loved a child character in a novel more than this little boy.  If he doesn't tug at your heart strings, I'm going to go ahead and clinically diagnose you as dead.  I find that most authors make (very young) child characters one-dimensional and peripheral to the story, but Finn is front and center, and just as well-rounded as the others in the novel.  He broke my heart on the regular.  Not to mention, there is a very dramatic scene with him near the end that left me glued to my Kindle long into the night until the event concluded.  Onstad gets huge kudos for her ability to build his character just as well as any adult's.

As is obvious by now, I swoon for this book.  Parents will certainly get more out of it, just given the subject matter, but if you're ready for an emotional and complex bit of dramatic fiction, you need to pick this up on-the-double.  This is the first Katrina Onstad novel I've read, and it won't be the last.

Have you discovered any great new-to-you writers lately?

12 comments:

  1. I love a good child character when they are done right and it sounds like this author nailed it! I've added it to my wish list, thanks!! Fantastic review by the way :)

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    1. Thank you! Yes, good child characters are (unfortunately) hard to come by, I've found.

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  2. Ditto what Jennifer said! Thanks for reviewing this!

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  3. This sounds really good! I'm glad to hear the author did such a good job portraying a fully realized child character. I'm not sure if I want to someday have kids; do you think this book's thoughts on parenting would be interesting from that perspective? What it means to want (or not want) to be a parent, or doubting that you would be any good at it?

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    1. YES, I think your perspective would be a perfect match actually. Some of the characters definitely struggle with that question. I'd love to hear what you think if you read it!

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  4. Oh wow, your stages of reading have me really intrigued. I'm not convinced I'm the ideal audience for it, but I really want to check out that ending. May add it to my to-read list, and if it's not for me I can always DNF, right?

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    1. Exactly! You may still be into it, I think it just struck a very personal chord with me because of my son...I felt like I wanted to cry every time I read a scene with Finn in it. It's hard for me to visualize my reaction to the book prior to having kids, so I'd be super interested in what you think.

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  5. I will have to check this one out, though as a parent it sounds like a tough (but good) one to read. The ability to be a good parent is something I struggle with, mostly because I don't know that there is a "good" way to parent (though certainly several awful ways).

    As a bonus, my (how can he already be) 5 year old is named Finn.

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    1. Yes, I find any book that delves into issues of parenting (fictional or non) to be really interesting...because there's no one way to do it, and what is really the right way?

      Love the name Finn, btw!

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