The Full Catastrophe (Paperback)
Our protagonist, Charlie Minkoff, is 16 at the time of this novel. His mother, Jules, is an absent-minded and successful artist and his father, Nathan, has deserted them and returned to his Hasidic roots in Crown Heights. A smelly little dachshund named Gellman rounds out this family and if it weren't for Jules' best friend Weezie (lesbian long-haul trucker) their lives would be chaotic and maybe not even survivable. What Charlie wants more than anything is to help his 80-year-old grandpa, Oscar, make his bar mitzvah since the Nazis effectively kept that from happening when it should have. Delighted, Oscar decides the two men should make their journey to the Torah together but here's the problem. Charlie was born intersex and according to the rabbi, the Bible has clear rules on who can (men) and cannot (women) have a bar mitzvah. I loved this funny, maddening story of who gets to decide what another person gets to do and what happens when that person takes the reins of their life and literally rides off into the sunset.— From Anne Holman
Winner, 2023 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction
Finalist, 2023 McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award
A compassionate and funny novel about defining yourself, the communities that support us, and the journeys that secrets propel.
Charlie Minkoff, a thirteen-year-old boy born with intersex traits, would be happy to be left alone. Living with his artist mother in a derelict loft in downtown Winnipeg, perpetually wondering about the father who abandoned him, and tormented in school because of his differences, Charlie navigates the assorted catastrophes of his life. He's helped along by the love of his beloved grandfather, Oscar, and the makeshift family who surround him: his mother's best friend; a couple of elderly shut-in neighbours; a mysterious girl in his class who has secrets of her own; and his desperately needy and perpetually hungry dog, Gellman.
When a school project leads him to discover that Oscar never had a bar mitzvah, Charlie decides to right the historical wrong and arrange a belated ceremony. But this quest will be more than he bargained for, and meanwhile everyone from his doctor to his Ancestry Studies teacher keeps insisting that Charlie needs to learn to tell his own story.
Margaret Laurence Award winner M ira Cook's The Full Catastrophe is a story of psychological complexity, tenderness, and humour.