Living In Toronto

Everybody has Everything

2013 Toronto Book Awards Finalist

What happens when the tidy, prosperous life of an urban couple is turned inside out by a tragedy with unexpected consequences? After years of unsuccessful attempts at conceiving a child, Ana and James become parents overnight when a terrible accident makes them guardians to two-and-a-half-year-old Finn. Suddenly, two people who were struggling to come to terms with childlessness are thrust into the opposite situation. Finn's crash-landing in their lives throws into high relief deeply rooted, 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 a seldom asked question: Can everyone be a parent?

What the judges said

Katrina Onstad's quietly riveting novel explores the complicated range of emotions — joy, terror, love, guilt, anger and confusion — ever-present in our self-conscious parenting age. In the aftermath of a horrific car crash, Ana and James, a career-focused couple who have almost reconciled themselves to a childless existence, become the guardians of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy. Ana is overwhelmed and unsure about whether she can form a bond with the child, while James slides more easily into his role as a dad, although his life has its own share of complications. Set in a downtown Toronto neighbourhood that is easily recognizable, with its parking squabbles, hipster coffee shops and playground cliques, Everybody Has Everything (McClelland & Stewart) is both unstinting and unsentimental, deftly picking apart the subtle and unspoken pressures of marriage, while offering keen observations about the personal consequences for those who do not want to be parents.

Katrina Onstad

Katrina Onstad's first novel, How Happy to Be, was published to great acclaim. Katrina is a former culture columnist for the Globe and Mail, and her journalism has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, as well as in The Guardian and Elle. She is a Canadian National Magazine Award winner, and has been nominated for an American National Magazine Award. Everybody has Everything, was a national bestseller, long listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and named a Globe and Mail Best Book and a NOW magazine Top 10 Book of 2012. Photo credit: Nancy Friedland

Excerpt from Everybody has Everything

In the end, it took Ana and James only an hour to become parents.

James arrived first, stumbling toward a police officer sitting on a chair by a door marked MORGUE. He felt his eyes ballooning, growing too big for his face. He tried, but could not blink. You are awake, he thought. This is happening.

"My name is James Ridgemore," he said to the policeman, who stood up quickly, as if caught in the act. James noticed he was short, or shorter than James. "My name is James Ridgemore."

"Just a moment," and the policeman went into the room, leaving James in an empty hallway, sniffing at alcohol and something he couldn't identify: Fire? Burning hair? It was freezing down here, devoid of heat. The second finger on his left hand turned white at the tip.

The policeman reappeared, holding open the door. When James entered, the contents of the room dropped away. All that was left was a body covered with a sheet hovering in bottomless space. But in fact, the tray jutted out of the wall. A matchbox sleeve. James could not tell if the thing upon it was male or female. Other people were there (he would remember that: the chatter, the grocery store dullness of all crowds), uttering words from television shows about coroners and death reports. No voices were lowered.

A woman pulled back the sheet. She wore clear rubber gloves that left her wedding band visible.

James looked down and recognized Marcus, the checkmark scar beneath his bottom lip. His black hair was matted with tar. Why would that be? Who closed his eyes? James ran rapid-fire through questions, but silently, his mouth too dry to speak. Why does he look so different? Is it only the difference between the living and the dead?

Then he realized that the difference, the strangeness, came down to something simple: Marcus was almost always smiling. James had never seen his lips so straight. There was no peace about him, no angel in repose, no release, no calm. He looked agitated, unsettled, as if he'd just been annoyed by a telemarketer.

"Yes, it's him," said James, though no one had asked a question. His legs felt hollow, swirling with smoke. But he did not feel ill. He was not repulsed, or disgusted. He did not find it hard to look upon the body. Then the tray slid back into its cabinet, and was sealed with a heavy handle.

The woman in the rubber gloves smiled at him ruefully. Well-worn, this smile, thought James.

On his way upstairs in the elevator, she stayed with him. She had removed her gloves, staring straight ahead as she did. She was tiny. Everyone seemed small that day.