Michelle Berry’s brilliant first novel is as touching as it is mirthful. Siblings Hilary, Thomas and Billy have been thrown together after a long estrangement to plan their mother’s funeral. For Thomas and Billy, the prospect of being back in their childhood home is far from ideal. Even more unsettling is their sister, who has developed a few disturbing attachments to dolls, preserves, and pebbles underfoot. For Hilary, the sight of her brothers is a sign of hope and a new life. As they argue over the funeral arrangements, Hilary, Billy, and Thomas struggle to contain their secret hopes, desires, fears, and shame. Witty and insightful, What We All Want shows just how beautiful and tragic family can be.
In the gallery of eccentric novels, this new work from Michelle Berry holds a determined place. A quick and compelling read, What We All Want is a quirky exploration of the bizarre condiments of family life, and how death brings together the different pieces of one family puzzle in a strange rearrangement of that institution’s terrible failures. — Calgary Herald
Berry’s attention to average people is what makes her novel…so good…What We All Want is an endearing and amusing novel that is bizarre while remaining credible. — FFWD
This book has all the makings of a Peter Sellers movie with a little angst thrown in for good measure. This book is a good read that delivers more than unremittingly grim social commentary. Its cynicism is infused with hope; social realism butts up against the grotesque, making the fiction vital and playful. — Calgary Straight
In the end, What We All Want is a satisfying portrait of a family, a town, a society in crisis. What we want is for the Mounts to succeed, to live good lives. The same things we want for ourselves and our own brothers and sisters and daughters and sons. — Edmonton Journal
Berry is a writer of disciplined restraint, one who always seems as though she’s about to speak the unspeakable before she rears back, keeping things on this side of the credible, the recognizable. In the end, against all odds, she achieves a fine balance. — Andrew Pyper, Quill & Quire
[A] crafty piece of writing…Berry uses a spare and direct style to convey her characters’ dilemmas…And she has a way of letting the situation speak for itself, without cluttering things up with intricate or adjective-heavy wordplay…This is a really good first novel. — Susan Cole, NOW weekly
Suggested Book Club Questions for What We All Want
- Do you think Hilary will have a “happily-ever-after” ending with Dick Mortimer?
- Is it important to know how Becka Mount died or does it not matter in the large scheme of things.
- What is the significance of the missing puzzle piece from “The Annunciation”?
- Do you think Billy will change or do you think he's a hopeless case?
- Dick Mortimer's dedication to his job tells us a lot about him as a character. Discuss.
- What do “we all want”?
- Discuss the mini-golf course. Why is it important that it consists of tiny replica houses and is not a traditional course?
- Hilary's jars of preserves and the rocks on her living room floor indicate what about her?
- What do each of the family members put in the casket and what does this tell you about what might happen to each one of them after the book is done?
- Many of Michelle Berry's books deal with body issues – what does Tess's obesity tell us about her?
Michelle Berry has been widely published in many Canadian literary magazines, national newspapers, and anthologies. She is the author of seven books of fiction, two novels of which have been published in the UK as well as in Canada. She has published two collections of short stories with Turnstone Press, I Still Don't Even Know You and How To Get There From Here. Turnstone Press also re-released four of Berry's previously published books: Margaret Lives in the Basement, What We All Want, Blur, and Blind Crescent. Berry is a reviewer for The Globe and Mail, and teaches at the University of Toronto and Humber College. Born in California and raised in Victoria, B.C., Berry now lives in Peterborough, ON with her family.