cover image Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead

Emily Austin. Atria, $26 (246p) ISBN 978-1-982167-35-6

Runaway humor sustains an otherwise grim story in Austin’s exuberant debut. After a car accident in which 27-year-old Gilda breaks her arm, she visits an emergency room where she’s a frequent patient, then responds to an ad offering free mental health support at a church. There, a priest mistakes her for a job applicant, and she doesn’t correct him. After the interview, Gilda accidentally becomes a receptionist, taking over for the late Grace Moppet, who may have been the victim of a homicidal nurse. As the receptionist, Gilda rapidly falls prey to impostor syndrome, a problem she faced during her last job as a bookseller (“I didn’t really get 1984 and... I hate poetry”). Meanwhile, Gilda, an atheist and a lesbian, makes awkward attempts to masquerade as a good Catholic, mistaking communion wafers for crackers, trying to understand hymns, catechism, baptism, and the blessed sacrament of confession. The plot thickens as Gilda responds to emails from one of her predecessor’s friends as Grace. What starts out as genuinely bleak affair, with a depressed Gilda considering suicide, becomes a brisk story underpinned by a vibrant cast. Fans of Helene Tursten’s An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good will find much to enjoy. (July)