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By Nathan Whitlock

Ambition, failure, sex and the service industry


Congratulations On Everything RGB

cover art by Gary Taxali

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 between Charlene and her boss Jeremy sends them both 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 foodies rule 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.

.“Congratulations on Everything is a wonderfully complicated story about small but big ambitions, full of surprising, bitter-sweet twists. It’ll worm into your heart with its beautifully damaged, human 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.

“Congratulations on Everything is a funny, sad guided tour of the private hell that is owning a bar or restaurant. Having avoided this fate myself, I wouldn’t trade places with Jeremy and his Shack for all the free oil changes in the world. 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.

“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

“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

“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.” – Spencer Gordon, special to The Globe and Mail 

“Whitlock is an assured writer with a patient comic touch.” – Alex Good, The National Post

“Whitlock’s second novel slyly masks immense depth of character and emotion behind wry humor…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.” – Publishers Weekly

Congratulations on Everything could fit into a special category of Canadian literary fiction that wraps real feeling in a cloak of cynicism—it’s resonant of Angie Abdou’s Between, at least in its indictment of Canadian consumerism and the devastation that follows from treating market variables as fixed points.” – Julienne Isaacs, Winnipeg Review

“Like [Russell] Smith, Whitlock pens straightforward prose, dialogue-driven, with flashes of comedy breaking the surface.” – Morley Walker, Winnipeg Free Press

“Whitlock writes the kind of prose that at first seems breezy, with easy, unforced dialogue and laugh-out-loud comic description… but there is a melancholy undertone to this story. Starting out as a smart satire on the restaurant business, the novel ends with a feeling examination of self-help, self-delusion, and the stories we tell ourselves to get by.” – Canadian Notes & Queries


ECW, Canada, Spring 2016 (World Rights)


CNQ Review

Scene Review

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