- 243 pages
- 2021 release
- Debut novel
- Contemporary Fiction
- LGBTQ themes
- Mental Health
Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a perhaps one of the most poignant books I’ve read this year. In this short debut novel, our protagonist, Gilda, is struggling with her mental health. Unsure of how to cope in a world that seems to stigmatize anxiety and depression, Gilda turns to a church flyer advertising free therapy at a local Catholic church. Yet, when she arrives, Father Jeff believes she is there for an interview to replace their recently deceased receptionist, Grace. Caught off guard, Gilda doesn’t know what to say and agrees to the position. Except, Gilda is gay, an atheist, and she’s been fired from her last position due to her continual inability to show up.
As Gilda immerses herself in her new job and tries to appear “normal” and a “good Catholic,” she not only has to learn about mass and religion, but she also has to learn Grace’s former position. Upon familiarizing herself with the church email, Gilda comes across an email from a friend of Grace’s, and she finds herself responding back instead of telling her friend the truth about Grace’s death. The email inspires Gilda to open up an amateur investigation into Grace’s death, while trying to avoid all of the anxieties Gilda has about her own mortality.
Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead blends dark humor, astute observations about mental health in society, and an unforgettable protagonist to create a story that readers won’t soon forget.
CONTENT WARNING: The content of this book (and review) mention discussions of mental health, depression, alcoholism, and suicide.
When I picked up Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead, I was taken in by the promise of humor, not realizing how much this book talks about mental health. Yet, I quickly became enthralled with Gilda’s story as I closely empathize with her difficulties with her mental health and her inability to easily get treatment.
One of the things that intrigued me the most about Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead is how little of a support system Gilda has–and the words that come from the support system that she DOES have. Gilda lives on her own, but her family makes no show of visiting her–Gilda is always visiting them. Additionally, every time she visits her parent’s house, her parents say something mediocre about someone being “insane,” not realizing the impact it has on Gilda.
“My mom ignores my dad, holding up a picture of Eli and me at the beach. Eli is wearing goggles and I have bright orange water wings on.
‘You look insane,’ Eli snorts at me.
My mom frowns, ‘She does not, Eli. Come on.’
‘Everyone in our family is perfectly sane,’ my dad says.
I take the photo from my mom to examine it up close. I look at my fleshy child face, and at how wide Eli is smiling.
Sometimes I wonder if I have really been the same person my whole life. I stare at the picture, and think: is that really me?”Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead (28)
While Gilda is clearly struggling with her mental health, her brother, Eli, also struggles, but with alcoholism. It becomes clear, early on in the novel, that Eli can’t hold a job, and might struggle with depression, as Gilda does. Yet it seems that their parents are completely unable–or unwilling–to see the difficulties their children have. I surmise that part of the reasoning for this is because they are unable to address their own mental health. It’s hinted early on that Gilda’s father had some kind of emotional breakdown when a family member died, unexpectedly, and he hasn’t been the same since. Whether it’s fear of addressing the symptoms or wishful ignorance, it’s clear that Gilda’s parents are attributing to a continuing cycle of lack of support and diagnosis for their children. Ironically, it’s clear that they want their kids to have good jobs, especially Gilda, but their expectations do not include the realization of Gilda’s symptoms, leaving an inordinate amount of pressure on the entire family.
While the novel clearly outlines Gilda’s struggles with mental health and how the people in her life influence her thoughts, I found two characters in this novel to be really intriguing–first of all, Gilda’s girlfriend, Eleanor. Eleanor seems driven by her loneliness, and perhaps some anxious thoughts of her own. She is constantly trying to reach Gilda, even after knowing her for a short period of time. Like most people, there comes a time when Eleanor gets frustrated with Gilda’s inability to “try” (or what Eleanor views as trying), and she breaks up with Eleanor when she finds out about Gilda’s escapades with Giuseppe. But, for the most part, Eleanor is entirely supportive of Gilda and continually reaches out to her over and over again, even when Gilda gives her nothing to go on. I really admired this about her and I found myself hoping that the two would work it out in the end because Eleanor is clearly a catch (after all, she buys Thin Mints).
Then, there’s pastor Jeff. Jeff struggles with depression, as well, but like Eleanor (and Gilda), his mental health falls somewhere on a never ending spectrum. Jeff was close with Grace, the woman who was the church’s former receptionist before she died. Throughout the novel, he is struggling with his grief, but he continually treats Gilda with kindness–even when she disappears for hours on end, doesn’t show up for days, and when she continually makes mistakes. He gives her second chance after second chance, and I think Jeff’s character really spoke to me for this reason. While Gilda doesn’t seem to have a support system within her own family (and she’s too embarrassed to tell Jeff the truth), I think Jeff would have been welcoming and forgiving after learning about the real reason why Gilda was so often missing.
Another thing I wanted to address, in this review, is the entire facet of Grace’s death. The main plotline in Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead follows Gilda’s obsession with Grace’s death after she learns that Grace might have died suspiciously. Gilda has a fascination with death. For most of the book, she doesn’t seem suicidal, but like most individuals with mental health difficulties, she’s constantly thinking about the meaning of her life, or lack thereof, and what death has to do with it. Grace’s cause of death being revealed is a huge release for Gilda as she slowly comes to terms with her own strength and her ruminations on her future death.
It’s difficult to rate a book that so clearly was written by someone who understands mental health better than most–the type of author that has LIVED through it, rather than just researched it; This is exactly what Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead is.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Gilda’s character. She’s witty, hilariously funny, and she thinks in ways that most people don’t. She clearly cares about everyone very deeply, and she wants the best for the people in her life, even though it’s difficult–she’s always putting herself first, even when she struggles to prioritize herself. Gilda’s character is the perfect representation of a person struggling with mental health, and I loved every facet of her.
That being said, this book does read like an indie novel and I think that can be difficult at times–While the large lapses in time and the arms-length narrative help the reader to understand Gilda’s struggles, it can also be alienating for the reader and I think, in this novel, it does do Gilda a little bit of disservice, since there are so many other clearly described areas of mental health.
I also didn’t love the ending of this novel (SPOILER AHEAD). While I think that the police interrogating Gilda as a suspect in Grace’s death was clearly a statement on how law enforcement is quick to judge anyone with a disability, I think that it all happened too quickly and it wasn’t as hashed out as it should have been. There are a lot of topics in this novel for it only being 200 and some pages, so I think I probably would have liked a little bit of a cleaner ending since Gilda has had such a messy story, overall. (SPOILER OVER)
That being said, Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead is one of the best, most well-written depictions of mental health that I have ever read and I would 100% recommend it to everyone and anyone–whether you might be struggling with your own mental health, or many struggling to get into the mindset of someone you know with mental health difficulties. This book is depressing, raw, and realistic–but in all the best ways.
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