People Have to Work to Love Their Children: Katrina Onstad (podcast)

“It happens all the time. People have to work to love their children. I think it’s a myth that it’s always immediate.”—Katrina Onstad on her latest novel, Everybody Has Everything

Everybody Has Everything, by Katrina OnstadElevator pitch: An urban couple, Ana and James, who do not have children of their own (for reasons revealed in the book’s opening), become the guardians of a two-year-old boy, Finn, in the aftermath of an accident, in which one of Finn’s parents dies and the other remains in a coma.

The crisis reveals cracks in the intimate relationship between Ana and James, and confronts themes of loss, doubt, and questions of longing, while exploring commentary around notions of modern/flexible parenting, nature vs. nurture, the struggle for some to feel the care they offer their loved ones, and the author’s own “generational obsessions” with what people do to fill the holes of absent parents, having herself grown up in the divorce generation of the 70s.

Onstad’s novel is ultimately a story about fulfillment, wholeness, and the illusion we’re told to strive for along the path of middle class acquisition—job, partner, children—that everybody can have everything. (You may have seen this response in The Atlantic to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.” If so, you’ll particularly enjoy my chat with Onstad.)

I met with Onstad in the downtown Toronto offices of McClelland & Stewart Doubleday Canada Publishing Group. When I arrived, Onstad was already waiting in the lobby. I noted her book perched at reception alongside a children’s picture book. “Can you imagine Everybody Has Everything as a board book?”

We went from there . . .

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Katrina Onstad, author of Everybody Has EverythingAbout Katrina Onstad: Onstad’s second novel, Everybody Has Everything, came out in Canada in May, 2012 (McClelland & Stewart) and will be released by Grand Central in the US in 2013. Her first novel, How Happy to Be, was met with critical acclaim in 2006.

Katrina is also a freelance writer whose work on culture high and low appears in publications including The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, and Elle. Katrina has a column in the “Saturday Style” section of the national paper The Globe and Mail and is a regular contributor to Toronto Life magazine. At CBC.ca, she was head film critic and an on-line arts producer.

Born and raised in Vancouver, B.C., Katrina has an English degree from McGill and a Master’s from University of Toronto. She lives in Toronto with her family.

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