Book Review: Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin
Reviewed by Kamryn Kronschnabel, Patron Services Librarian
Do you find humor in your own existential dread? Does the thought of being important to anyone mortify you? Boy, will you be able to relate to Gilda, the protagonist of Emily Austin’s novel Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead.
Gilda is, for better or for worse, a complete mess. She’s in her twenties, a lesbian, and unhealthily obsessed with death. I don’t mean that in a “she’s got a goth aesthetic and likes skeleton decor” sort of way; I mean that she cannot stop thinking about death and feels totally paralyzed most of the time. Fortunately, she shows she’s willing to go to therapy… except her attempt to get help becomes a farce when she’s mistaken for an interviewee to be the secretary at a Catholic church. Gilda plays along and gets hired, too embarrassed to correct anyone.
The book that follows is so dead serious it’s hard to not find it funny. Gilda gets to experience her first mass and is mortified she doesn’t know the words (“We have lines?” she thinks to herself). Gilda has a girlfriend she always forgets to text back, but she’s so nonconfrontational she accidentally gets herself a boyfriend at the same time. Gilda sends emails to Rosemary, friend of the prior, now-deceased church secretary, while signing them with her predecessor’s name in an attempt to stop Rosemary from finding about her friend’s death – all because Gilda can’t bear the thought of Rosemary feeling sad. Gilda obsessively looks for a cat named Mittens that, as far as everyone else knows, died in a fire. Gilda avoids her family and their dysfunction and does her best to help her alcoholic brother while their parents deny his addiction. Oh, and Gilda continues to think about death.
I’m willing to bet at least a few people are thinking, “What? This doesn’t sound funny at all!” That’s a fair reaction, but I encourage people to give it a chance. I didn’t find this book to be “laugh out loud hilarious” like I do with some, but I did chortle under my breath quite a lot and admit to myself, “Oh no, I feel seen” at some of Gilda’s inner thoughts… and really, that’s what Austin was trying to do. Gilda is painfully relatable at moments – especially for folks who suffer from depression or anxiety, but even for people who are well-functioning adults and can sometimes feel that existential dread creeping in. Ultimately, Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a testament that we aren’t alone in suffering from these feelings and that we have to embrace the duality – that we do and don’t matter – to be functioning human beings and have a shot at happiness.
Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is available in print at Charles City Public Library and as an audiobook or ebook through BRIDGES and Libby. To get the print copy or get assistance with Libby, contact us at 641-257-6319 or stop by the library today!