Sarah O'Connor

Writer – Playwright – Cannot Save You From The Robot Apocalypse

“One day I will die, and one day everyone I know will die. One day everyone I don’t know will die. One day every animal and plant on this planet will die. One day earth itself will die, and one day all of humanity, and all relics of human life,” (Austin).

Twenty-seven-year-old atheist lesbian Gilda can’t stop thinking about death. Desperate to stop the thoughts, she goes to a local church that’s advertising free local therapy only to find herself greeted by Father Jeff who believes she’s come to interview for the new receptionist job at the church. Not wanting to disappoint Father Jeff, she’s hired on the spot to replace the beloved former receptionist, Grace. Hiding the fact that she’s very gay, as well as trying to memorize the lines of Catholic mass, Gilda manages to strike up an email correspondence with Grace’s friend Rosemary because she doesn’t know how to tell the old woman her friend is dead. Juggling all this the police have also discovered some suspicious circumstances around Grace’s death, causing Gilda’s already panicked and dark thoughts to run in unexpected ways.

Holy hell does this book pack a punch! This is not a cheery, escapist read but a dark, uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing one but so incredibly worth it. Austin has written a story that gets at the root of death anxiety, that is perfectly existential, if you get existential and have death anxiety over how we’re all just specks and that our lives as a whole are pretty meaningless (perhaps like this reader…) take this book in bite sized pieces. I felt like crying multiple times while reading because of how expertly Austin does explaining and reflecting on this, it was like she was in my head sometimes. This was a tough read, but one I enjoyed reading immensely. Also, Austin is Canadian and the book is set in Canada (shout-out to St. Thomas, I’ve never been there but I know it exists!) and as a Canadian reader that made me ridiculously happy.

Gilda is an interesting protagonist. She’s someone who cares deeply for others, who suffers and struggles and gets herself into situations that are frustrating sometimes. There were many times I wanted to yell at her or just grew so angry at the things she did and the choices she made. But like how Gilda just wants to ease the lives of others, I wanted things to be easier for her. I wanted her to be happy, I wanted her mind to be quiet, I wanted only good things to come to her. I didn’t want her to suffer. It’s an expert way that Austin has written this character and stunning thing to see done in a debut novel.

As someone who was also raised Catholic like Austin, there are some truly hilarious moments in this book. I laughed out loud a number of times at Gilda stumbling through mass and how learning about the parts of Catholic mass steeped into her own life. Favourite moments without spoilers include: communion wafers, genuflecting in inappropriate places, tabernacles. I also thought that it was incredibly clever of Austin to use the Catholic liturgical year as a kind of framing device for her novel, it worked very well and each part was wonderfully chosen (I see what you did with Easter, Austin!).

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a book that demands to be felt. It wants readers to confront the most vulnerable areas of themselves, confronting our own existential fears and learning to live as a tiny, mortal thing in this big wide world. This is one of my favourite reads and I’ll have to buy a copy of this book. I can’t wait to read what else Austin has to write!

Favourite Quotes:

“Losing someone to the Lord makes it sound like God steals people,” 

“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,” 

“I wonder who will occupy the spaces I’ve inhabited, after I’m dead,”

“Don’t worry…life is meaningless; it’s strange and inexplicable that we exist to begin with. We are all basically dead already in the grand scheme of things, and our feelings of sadness are pointless–they are just how our meat sacks react to the chemicals in our bodies,”

“I’m disappointed God is so homophobic that he forgot about lesbians, but I guess I would rather be forgotten than put to death,”

 “It’s like an ominous magical power, turning someone inanimate,” 

“Humans are cancer. If we were to look at earth from a distance, we would look like white blood cells, and watching our evolution would be like watching cancer spread,”

(No page numbers because Libby page numbers are weird.)

56933204Publication: July 6th 2021
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 226 pages (Libby)
Source: Library
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, LGTBQ+, Literary Fiction
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤⛤

Gilda, a twenty-something lesbian, cannot stop ruminating about death. Desperate for relief from her panicky mind and alienated from her repressive family, she responds to a flyer for free therapy at a local Catholic church, and finds herself being greeted by Father Jeff, who assumes she’s there for a job interview. Too embarrassed to correct him, Gilda is abruptly hired to replace the recently deceased receptionist, Grace.
In between trying to memorize the lines to Catholic mass, hiding the fact that she has a new girlfriend, and erecting a dirty dish tower in her crumbling apartment, Gilda strikes up an email correspondence with Grace’s old friend. She can’t bear to ignore the kindly old woman, who has been trying to reach her friend through the church inbox, but she also can’t bring herself to break the bad news. Desperate, she begins impersonating Grace via email. But when the police discover suspicious circumstances surrounding Grace’s death, Gilda may have to finally reveal the truth of her mortifying existence.

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