Sharp, urban, witty, wise — this sparkling debut is the thinking woman’s answer to chick lit Maxime is an entertainment writer at a flailing neo-con newspaper. She’s been dining out too long, literally and figuratively, on a culture of celebrity worship and empty punditry. She seeks refuge from her better judgment in endless parties, ritual substance abuse, and half-hearted attempts to get herself fired, but in a libertarian newsroom where outrageous spin is the easiest way to sell papers, her bad-girl behaviour just wins her more accolades.
Along this path of self-destruction, Max’s past, comic and poignant, keeps intruding: memories of her mother’s brutal death and her hippie father’s crippling breakdown; the reappearance of an aging vegan idealist who briefly played her stepmom on the West Coast commune where she came of age; tender realizations about the bad artist she was supposed to marry and a long-lost boyfriend who seems exotically sane. When a host of prior indiscretions finally catches up with her, Maxime realizes that any chance at happiness depends on uncovering, at last, her one true story.
Set during the madness of the Toronto International Film Festival and weaving back and forth between Max’s commune past and her newsroom present, How Happy to Be portrays with razor-sharp insight and bittersweet wit a modern woman’s descent into — and eventual escape from — the deafening pop culture noise of the early twenty-first century. Intelligent, savvy, this novel marks the arrival of a remarkable new fiction talent.
Katrina Onstad is a film and culture writer for CBC Arts Online and has had her work published internationally. She was formerly the National Post film columnist. Katrina Onstad lives in Toronto.
“Pop culture geeks will go nuts for Onstad’s brutal dissection of the life of a media whore. . . . A triumph.”
— NOW Magazine
“Katrina Onstad’s How Happy to Be is an acerbic, hilarious and culturally astute page-turner of a debut.”
“Young women will relate profoundly and personally . . . . A working woman’s Nick Hornby, Onstad has created a pithy, poppy text about being adrift.”
— Globe and Mail
“Katrina Onstad’s debut novel is wickedly funny, with a biting edge that makes How Happy to Be a must-read for those cold winter nights.”
— Weekly Scoop
“A deft meditation on nostalgia, grieving and familial relations. . . .Fresh, compelling and flawless.”
— Toronto Star
“[An] ambitious and impressive first novel . . . intelligent and arresting. An auspicious literary debut.”
— National Post
“Witty. . . fine writing.”
— Montreal Gazette
“How Happy to Be successfully mixes funny and frothy chick-lit scenarios with an ambitious emotional reckoning.”
— Fashion Magazine
“Katrina Onstad finds that magic place between fact and fiction and charms the reader with her discovery. A wonderful book.”
“Katrina Onstad writes poignantly about the failed ideals of one generation and the lack of ideals in this one. From communes to movie stars, this book is an act of redemption, one that is funny, wise and honest.”
“Katrina Onstad offers a sharp, new edge to the Canadian literary landscape. How Happy to Be jumps out at the reader with a hip, ironic voice that offers a poignant mixture of sassy humour and raw exploration of human alienation.”