Combining a pitch-perfect, whip-smart dissection of contemporary
urban life with a fresh and perceptive examination of our
individual and collective ambivalence towards parenthood, Katrina
Onstad''s Everbody Has Everything
balances tragedy and comedy with verve and flair, and is
destined to be one of Canada''s most talked-about novels of
What happens when the tidy, prosperous life of an urban couple is
turned inside out by a tragedy with unexpected consequences? After
a car crash leaves their friend Marcus dead and his wife Sarah in a
coma, Ana and James are shocked to discover that they have become
the legal guardians of a 2½-year-old, Finn. Finn''s crash-landing
in their lives throws 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 unasked question: Can
everyone be a parent?
KATRINA ONSTAD''s first novel, How Happy to Be,
was published to great acclaim in 2006. Her award-winning
journalism has appeared in The New York Times
Magazine, The Guardian, Elle, and
Toronto Life. Katrina lives in Toronto, where she is a
culture columnist for the Globe and Mail. Visit her at
1. How do you understand the meaning of the novel's title?
2. Consider the epigraph the author has chosen. What do you
think she hopes you to take from it? How does is relate to the
3. There are many poetic and musical references in the novel,
and one song in particular plays a key role in the narrative. What
do the various quotations tell us about the different characters in
the novel who recall or recognize them? What do you think the
author wishes to say through the use of that one key song? About
Ana's life, about James's life, about life more generally?
4. Is this a particularly "urban" novel? Why or why not?
5. "How did you know?" Ana asks Sarah on page 57, about wanting
to have a child. Whose side of the ensuing exchange made the most
sense to you? Why could Ana not be honest with Sarah about when, or
if, she herself "knew"?
6. How does James's behaviour upend (or conform to) conventional
notions of masculinity? At work? At home? With Finn? In what ways
does Ana challenge the concept of femininity? How do these shifting
gender roles affect the story?
7. At certain points, both Ana and James find themselves acutely
aware of their age. What triggers this awareness in each of them?
What does this awareness mean to each of them?
8. Neither Ana's nor James's mother quite fits the picture of an
"ordinary mother." Can you see people you know in either of them?
In what ways?
9. Is it still a social taboo for a woman to resist motherhood?
How does Ana experience society's attitudes toward women who aren't
mothers? Is it possible for a female character to be sympathetic if
she rejects motherhood?
10. How does the sudden presence of a child in James and Ana's
relationship foment marital discord, and flirtations with
infidelity - or does it? To what extent is their marriage affected
11. What do you make of Ana's flirtation with Charlie? What
attracts her to him?
12. The final scene of the novel involves James telling Finn
(and Ana) a story. How does this closing story-within-a-story
relate to the novel as a whole?
13. What do you think the next chapter in life will be for Ana,
for James, for Finn, for Sarah?