Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily R. Austin

Sadly Everyone in This Room Will Someday be Dead doesn’t bring anything new to the directionless-young-woman-spends-all-her-time-navel-gazing-under-the-torpor-of-ennui subgenre. At times, Austin’s brand of cringe comedy tried too hard to be cringey, so much so that I ended up not buying into a certain scene or character.
Gilda, a recently unemployed twenty-something lesbian, is obsessed with death. Her preoccupation with death is such that she thinks of it all the time. For instance, when sitting on a chair she wonders whether the people who sat on it before are dead. She envisions terrible scenarios, in which she or someone else dies. At times she suffers from panic attacks which lead her to make frequent visits to her hospital. No one seems to notice how disconnected Gilda is from her everyday life. As with all the other alienated millennial women populating these novels, Gilda seems unable to perform even the most basic of tasks. She’s too depressed to wash herself or the dishes, she often forgets to reply to her maybe girlfriend and seems painfully unaware of the world around her. She has many surreal conversations with others, who often seem blind to Gilda’s depression and anxiety.
Gilda unintentionally lands herself a job as a receptionist at Catholic church where she discovers that her predecessor died. Gilda, being death-obsessed, tries to learn more about this woman
This novel cemented my dislike for 1st person present tense narratives. Every seemingly mundane action Gilda makes has to be mentioned, so that we have many lines such as these: I drink, I get up, I put the cup on the counter, I move my hand, I walk, I sit, I blink, I look down/up.
The way the story is presented on the page also really grated me. On one page there could be three separate paragraphs, each one focusing on a different conversation/moment of Gilda’s life. We then end up with one simple dialogue, say between Gilda and that Giuseppe guy, dragging on for pages, and being interrupted by Gilda’s conversations with the people from the church or her family. I just found this style choppy and artificial, better suited to a tv show than a book.
Speaking of tv shows, this novel tries really hard to be something in the realms of Fleabag, but whereas that show does a fantastic job in making absurd conversations or OTT characters seem believable, here, I just did not buy into what I was reading. For instance, that whole Giuseppe thing was just unnecessary. The guy is the classic fitness-crazed wannabe guru that is a dime a dozen on YouTube and social media. And he speaks in this very contrived way, 24/7. Austin’s character lacked nuance, finesse, whatever you wanted it to call it. Giuseppe could have been funny but Austin is too heavy-handed, and the result is an unfunny caricature. Gilda’s parents are also painfully one-dimensional. They get barely any page-time and even when they appeared they remained amorphous. Gilda’s mother is relegated to the role of mom, and her father is just a generic dad. The scenes they were included in were just there to show how unfair they are to Gilda. While I could believe that some parents would wrongly blame one child instead of the actual guilty child, the way this played out here was just incredibly unrealistic (I am talking about that ‘get out’ scene). It was so unbelievable that it really pulled me out of the story. The maybe girlfriend is just as generic as Gilda’s parents. She makes very few if any appearances and mostly sends texts to our mc asking what she’s up to or whatnot.
A character that had the potential was Gilda’s brother, but, ultimately I didn’t like how the story handles him (how delusional is Gilda to think that leaving him a message like that could magically cure his alcoholism and, as Giuseppe would say, ‘live his truth’
The people at the church where Gilda works were uninteresting. They are old and think that the internet is a magical and mysterious place. Because they are old you see. Old people don’t know anything about the internet as Austin reminds us so many times.
Gilda herself was just exhausting and I cared little for her. She overanalysis everything around her, and while at times her observations could amusing or feel authentic, for the most part, it was just boring being in her head (for instance when she goes on about she’s had her hands for her whole life and that they fed her everything she has ever eaten so far). Rather incongruously the author seemed to be rying to make Gilda ultra-relatable by making her think or say these trivial things while at the same time emphasizing how different Gilda is from those around her.
The setting of this story is so generic that I could not tell you where it takes place. America? Canada? Australia? Maybe this was mentioned once somewhere in the novel but the author doesn’t really depict Gilda’s environment. A counterargument to this could be that Gilda is too wrapped up in her own head to observe her surroundings, but, what about My Year of Rest and Relaxation? The narrator there is decidedly inward-looking and spends most of the book in the confines of her apartment and yet the author there manages to really give us an impression of the place (New York) and time (2000-20001) the story is taking place in.
There were moments now and again that made me smile or that felt particularly spot-on, such as when Gilda gives us a brief rundown of her experience on dating apps. But these genuinely funny were rare.
All in all, I found this novel to be more of a flop than a hit. Maybe I have read too many books that feature aimless alienated women in their twenties but, in comparison to My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Luster, and Pretend I’m Dead, Everyone in This Room Will Someday be Dead is quite forgettable.

my rating: ★★½

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