Congratulations on Everything, by Nathan Whitlock, gives a window, with magnified detail, into someone’s very realistic and human life. Jeremy and Charlene, the two main protagonists’ of the novel, are not super-human, or thrown into super-human situations. Their trails are linked to the very real struggles of dealing with the limitations of our mortality as humans. What should we do with our lives, and how do we find contentment? How do we deal with the very real fact that we age and eventually run out of time?
Whitlock’s narrative style, and well-crafted prose, makes for a very fluid, enjoyable read. The chapters feel like a series of short stories, snippets in Jeremy’s life that, although not connected in a linear sense, showcase all the moments that were significant in his life. We come to understand who Jeremy is by the life that he leads, through his experiences, and how he treats those around him—his staff, his family, his past lovers. We don’t get direct access to Jeremy’s mind. Rather, we get our knowledge from his surface thoughts and the opinions of Charlene, a prominent server working the day shifts at his dream bar, The Ice Shack.
Charlene is Jeremy’s opposite and his mirror. Where one strives so hard to achieve his dream, the other is not sure where her path should go. Neither are fully routed in the reality of their situations, existing in a sort of pleasant naivety that just cannot, and does not, last. This fragile contentment is felt keenly in the first half of the book, creating a sense of foreboding that easily captivates.
All of Whitlocks’s characters feel real, and solid, with rich backstories, worries and motivations that are highly relatable to any reader. The memories used to flesh out Charlene, Jeremy, and the half dozen minor—but still memorable—characters, evoke a sense of nostalgia and sympathy. I highly enjoyed Congratulations on Everything. It was a seamless read that delved into the small, but fascinating, eccentricities of a “normal” life.
Enjoyability Rating: *** 1/2