Congratulations on Everything

Nathan Whitlock. ECW (PGW/Legato, U.S. dist.; Jaguar Book Group, Canadian dist.), $18.95 trade paper (328p) ISBN 978-1-77041-290-3
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. Jeremy, who is nearing 50 and obsessed with being his own boss, owns the struggling Ice Shack, a Toronto bar and restaurant that attracts unremarkable but endearing patrons. Jeremy is oblivious to his flaws—chiefly selfishness, and little business sense—and has a continuous need for "investors." Of no help at all is Jeremy's devotion to the fictional business author Theo Hendra, whose behind-closed-doors antics destroyed his career and whose mistakes Jeremy should have tried harder not to replicate. The parallels between the idol and the man serve up some delicious irony. The motley crew of staff includes Charlene, a people-savvy but unhappily married waitress; Patty, a retired underappreciated teacher; and Tyler, a questionably proficient and socially awkward cook. Whitlock shows that characters don't need to be flashy to be interesting, just written well. Readers will find it hard not to see the Shack like the much-loved Cheers, though without the expectation that the owner knows or even wants to know the regulars' names. Agent: Ann McDermid, McDermid Agency. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/21/2016
Release date: 05/01/2016
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