The Full Catastrophe

The Full Catastrophe

A Novel

Written by: Cook, Méira

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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 Méira Cook’s The Full Catastrophe is a story of psychological complexity, tenderness, and humour.

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 Méira Cook’s The Full Catastrophe is a story of psychological complexity, tenderness, and humour.

Published By House of Anansi Press Inc — Jun 7, 2022
Specifications 348 pages | 5.25 in x 8 in
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Excerpt
Written By

MÉIRA COOK is the award-winning author of the novels Once More With Feeling; The House on Sugarbush Road, which won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award; and Nightwatching, which won the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction. She has also published five poetry collections, most recently Monologue Dogs, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry and for the 2016 McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award. She has won the CBC Poetry Prize and the inaugural Walrus Poetry Prize. She has served as Writer in Residence at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture, and the Winnipeg Public Library. Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, she now lives in Winnipeg.

Written By

MÉIRA COOK is the award-winning author of the novels Once More With Feeling; The House on Sugarbush Road, which won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award; and Nightwatching, which won the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction. She has also published five poetry collections, most recently Monologue Dogs, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Lansdowne Prize for Poetry and for the 2016 McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award. She has won the CBC Poetry Prize and the inaugural Walrus Poetry Prize. She has served as Writer in Residence at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture, and the Winnipeg Public Library. Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, she now lives in Winnipeg.

[The Full Catastrophe] challenges conventional ideas about adolescence, parenting and the experience of intersex children.

” —Winnipeg Free Press

Wit, wisdom, rhythm, emotional warmth, charm, and more fill the exuberant pages of Méira Cook’s fourth novel.

” —The Miramichi Reader

The Full Catastrophe reads like a tragi-comic film with a unique cast of characters.

” —CBC Books

The Full Catastrophe has characters as rich and multi-faceted as life itself.

” —Prairie Books Now

A tender and thoughtful exploration of identity, meaning-making, and the stories we tell.

” —Jean Meltzer, author of The Matzah Ball

You can’t help rooting for Charlie, for his grandfather, and even for Gellman the dog in this buoyant and generous novel.

” —Cary Fagan, author of The Student