Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead – Emily Austin

Twenty-seven year old Gilda is the new receptionist at St. Rigobert’s Catholic Church. She’s also sort of, not really dating a “self-actualized reality strategist”. That’s life coach speak for being a life coach, if you’re Giuseppe. Between being an “undercover atheist” working at a church and being a gay woman with a girlfriend who’s sort of, not really dating a man, Gilda’s life is kind of complicated these days.

Gilda is on a first name basis with the staff at the emergency department and she’s currently cultivating a dirty dishes sculpture. Her parents could have an entire book dedicated to their own foibles and her younger brother is an alcoholic. Add all of that up and you realise that Gilda could have really used that therapy on the flyer that led her to St. Rigobert’s in the first place. Oh, and the lovely old lady whose job Gilda stumbled into may have been murdered. Nothing to see here, folks.

Because I apparently love books about fellow misfits going about their daily lives, I got sucked straight into this one. Although they’re entirely different people, the socially awkward protagonists of Snowflake and Convenience Store Woman came to mind as I read. 

Gilda’s fascination with, and fear of, death fascinated me. 

I wonder if my death will be what defines me. 

The depiction of mental illness, specifically depression and the panic attacks that accompany anxiety, was authentic. 

I’m “okay” in the loose sense of the word, meaning mostly: I can breathe. I am probably, however, not truly okay. Something is obviously wrong with me. I feel like I just escaped a bear attack. Why does my body react like it is being chased down by predators when it’s not? Am I physically in-tuned to some sort of impending doom that I can’t perceive otherwise? Am I sensing something, or am I just out of whack? Why do I feel this terrible physical dread? Do I have cancer? Am I—

Stop. 

I loved Gilda’s take on so many things:

The preoccupation people have with the way they look… 

“I think our appearance is meaningless,” I sputter. “We’re all just skeletons covered in skin.” 

Biblical loopholes… 

I can’t help noting the use of the male pronouns. I wonder whether this directive applies to me. Am I subject to a womanly loophole? Whoever wrote this book prioritized men so much, he forgot about the other half of humanity. It seems like I can curse my parents with no repercussions at all. 

On not being as invisible as you feel… 

I find it so bizarre that I occupy space, and that I am seen by other people. 

Telling it like it is… 

“It’s easy to feel like you understand everything in life when you’re big-headed, self-important, and stupid.” 

And telling it like it is Part 2… 

Don’t worry, Jeff, 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. 

Did I mention that Gilda’s essentially a ray of sunshine wrapped in a meat sack?

Content warnings include alcoholism, bullying, death by suicide, mental health, self harm and suicidal ideation. Readers with emetophobia may have difficulty with one scene.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Meet Gilda. She cannot stop thinking about death. Desperate for relief from her anxious mind and alienated from her repressive family, she responds to a flyer for free therapy at a local church and finds herself abruptly hired to replace the deceased receptionist Grace. It’s not the most obvious job – she’s queer and an atheist for starters – and so in between trying to learn mass, hiding her new maybe-girlfriend and conducting an amateur investigation into Grace’s death, Gilda must avoid revealing the truth of her mortifying existence.

A blend of warmth, deadpan humour, and pitch-perfect observations about the human condition, Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a crackling exploration of what it takes to stay afloat in a world where your expiration – and the expiration of those you love – is the only certainty.