If you struggle with anxiety, you are not alone! Emily Austin's debut novel, Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead takes on mental health in a completely human way. It's perfect for fans of Ottessa Moshfegh and Kristen Arnett.
In Emily Austin’s darkly humorous debut novel, Everyone in This Room Will Someday be Dead, we meet Gilda, a young woman riddled with morbid anxiety who cannot stop thinking about death and she’s on a first name basis with many of the ER staff because of her frequent panic attacks. After a car accident, she escapes with a broken arm and an even more bleak outlook on life. Despite her atheism, she accidentally gets a job as a receptionist at a Catholic church after walking in in search of the free therapy they offer. The priest mistakes her for an interviewee and Gilda is hired almost on the spot. She quickly takes up responding to friendly emails to the church posing as the recently deceased (possibly murdered?) church receptionist, Grace Moppet, not out of insidious motives, but because she is terrified to break the news that Grace has passed away. It’s not until the police find Grace’s death suspicious that Gilda must finally reveal her truth.
"Look at me now, I'm crying. That's ridiculous. Hey! Stop crying. It doesn't matter. Consider the vastness of space!" p.157
Gilda is a novice when it comes to all things Catholicism. She sometimes binges on communion wafers out of curiosity and borderline necessity-"I stole a roll of crackers from the church. I don't know when to expect my first paycheck, and the only food to my name is a block of cheese. I hesitated as I pocketed the crackers. According to the book I was reading today, stealing is one of the top ten worst things a person can do. I decided to carry on with the theft, however, because hell does not exist, and if it does, I'm already slated to go." (p.49) While at work, she must also hide the fact that she is a lesbian with a very patient, but naive girlfriend. Gilda’s anxiety about life and death is almost palpable throughout the novel with staccato sentences full of worry, second-guessing, and morbid thoughts but her character is written with dignity and respect in a way that doesn’t leave the reader feeling “sorry” for her, but rather in a humanly relatable way. Gilda’s poor mental health results in the dauting growing pile of dirty dishes in her bedroom, and an intense experience with imposter syndrome. With her incessant inner monologue of death, she grapples with the idea of being "a mite...smaller than a dot". "I stare down at the speck of the cosmos that my body occupies." she thinks to herself. Her growing sense of dread is interrupted throughout the novel with light-hearted conversations, small victories, and sobering self-realizations. This darkly humorous novel hits you right in the feels, and leaves you rooting for this quirky, likable but sometimes exasperating main character.
"Two Jehovah's Witnesses came to my door when I was seven. They asked me if I was baptized. I answered no, and they told me that was because my parents were atheists. I remember their voices deepened when they said the word "atheists" as if it were an obscenity. Being seven years old, I was inclined to take notice of swear words- so I committed the word to my memory. I spent the next three years calling people atheists, having no clue what it meant, thinking I was a cutting trash-talker." p. 25-26
If you struggle with anxiety you will relate to Gilda. If you are miraculously untouched by anxiety, I urge you to read this to get an idea of what it is like. After recommending this to my best friend, she stated that she has “never felt so seen”.
"Gilda is the anxious queer hero who I didn't know that I needed, a delightfully weird reminder that we will one day turn to dust and that yes, this is depressing, but it's also what makes life beautiful, why it's important to say what we mean, do what we want, love as best as our crooked hearts will allow us to while we still can. I will read whatever Austin puts in front of me until I'm six feet under." —JEAN KYOUNG FRAZIER, author of Pizza Girl
"My god - this book starts with a literal bang and keeps on going, straight through the heart of American anxiety, exploring the self-imposed experience of being a terrified human in a world with other terrified humans. It’s so vivid and so good.”—AMBER SPARKS, author of And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories and Other Revenges
"...I wonder if everyone's an imposter. What if beneath every lawyer's suit and every stay-at-home-parent's apron, everyone is just a baby who doesn't know what they're doing? I wonder if anyone really identifies as the adult they've morphed into". p.44
For more books about mental health check out this list from Sara M.: