Ambition, failure, sex, and the service industry
A dark and comic novel, Congratulations On Everything tracks the struggles, frailties, and cruelly pyrrhic victories of the middle-aged owner of a bar-restaurant and a 30ish lunch-shift waitress.
Jeremy has bought into the teachings of an empowerment and success guru, hook, line, and sinker. A Toronto service industry lifer, he’s risen through the ranks until he finally takes the keys to his destiny and opens his own place, The Ice Shack.
Everyone assumes Ice Shack daytime waitress Charlene is innocent and empathetic, but in reality she’s desperately unhappy and looking for a way out of her marriage to her high-school sweetheart. A drunken encounter sends Charlene and her boss careening. The Ice Shack stops being an oasis of sanity and, as Jeremy struggles to keep his business afloat, he’ll stop at nothing to maintain his successful, good guy self-image.
In an era when the gourmand rules and chefs become superstars, Congratulations On Everything is a hilarious and occasionally uncomfortable dose of anti-foodie reality that reveals what goes on when the customers and Instagrammers aren’t around — and even sometimes when they are.
Nathan Whitlock’s award-winning fiction and non-fiction has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, Toronto Life, Report on Business, Flare, Fashion, Geist, Maisonneuve, and Best Canadian Essays, and he has appeared on radio and television discussing books and culture. Heather O’Neill called A Week of This, Whitlock’s first novel, “a portrait of people in a small town so intimate that it feels like you are under the covers with them.” He is a contributing editor for Quill & Quire. He lives in Toronto with his wife and children.
“These are believable creations. They speak and fail and contradict themselves with the regular inelegance of real people. The day-to-day pleasures and pains of the service industry are also rendered with fine-tuned realism, an ear for the strange within the mundane. Whitlock is a very smooth, competent stylist, in an understated way. There’s no flash or bang here: His characters propel the action, calling attention to narrative style only with metaphor and image – which are always arresting, always right. ” — Globe & Mail
“Despite its sub-optimal outcomes for its characters’ limited lives, Congratulations on Everything isn’t dreary or depressing. Whitlock is an assured writer with a patient comic touch. ” — National Post
“Whitlock’s second novel (after A Week of This) slyly masks immense depth of character and emotion behind wry humor and a simple story about seemingly uncomplicated people . . . Whitlock shows that characters don’t need to be flashy to be interesting, just written well. ” — Publishers Weekly
“Congratulations finds its best moments in comic scenes . . . To his credit, Whitlock’s evident affection for his hero encourages interest in an unexceptional guy with half-baked plans. ” — Toronto Star
“Jeremy’s beloved bar, the Ice Shack, is doomed. But Whitlock’s darkly comic observations and sense of humanity keeps the story afloat. ” — Metro
“You might call Nathan Whitlock’s sense of humour the gallows kind: he readily locates the brutal and exposes its ridiculous underside. Not that he makes fun of his characters’ small, damaged lives — too much, anyway. Instead, he opens them up to reveal their working — and broken — parts. ” — Winnipeg Review
“[Whitlock] is at heart a satirist and an urban realist, a tamer version of CanLit provocateur Russell Smith . . . Like Smith, Whitlock pens straightforward prose, dialogue-driven, with flashes of comedy breaking the surface. ” — Winnipeg Free Press
“Food fiction doesn’t come around that often and while Whitlock’s novel is more than that, this is a novel that will appeal to all those who ever entertained the notion of beginning one’s own place. ” — Owen Sound Times
“Congratulations On Everything is rife with humour, heartbreak, ambition, and failure. ” — Quill & Quire
“Congratulations on Everything is a wonderfully complicated story about small but big ambitions, full of surprising, bittersweet twists. It’ll worm its way into your heart with its beautifully damaged characters and unexpected triumphs over the most hopeless adversities. Expect some great laughs. Do yourself a favour: Get this book!” — Jowita Bydlowska, author of Drunk Mom: A Memoir
“Possibly the most entertaining book ever written about a decent guy committing self-sabotage. Reminds me of Russell Banks at his best. ” — Cary Fagan, author of Bird’s Eye and My Life Among the Apes
“Packed with the kind of charmingly odd, broken characters that crowd every decent bar, Whitlock’s fast and funny novel explores lives that may look small from the outside but are vast and infinitely redeemable. ” — Katrina Onstad, author of Everybody Has Everything
“A funny, sad guided tour of the private hell that is owning a bar or restaurant. Nathan Whitlock has an ear for authentic dialogue and the constant negotiation and disappointment that is adult life. The best novel I’ve read all year. (Though I could do without so many curse words. )” — Corey Mintz, author of How to Host a Dinner Party
“Whitlock makes Jeremy and Charlene sympathetic even when they’re at their worst, and their stories are supported by a chorus of memorable and hilarious co-workers, customers, and family members. This is a smart, funny, and thoroughly entertaining read. ” — Pickle Me This