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 in to 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.
"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)
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