Everyday In This Room Will Someday Be Dead

EVERYONE IN THIS ROOM WILL SOMEDAY BE DEAD
Emily Austin
Atlantic

REVIEWED BY ANNE STEVENS

Gilda discovered the corpse of her rabbit when she was 10. She had gone outside to share her apple and came face to face with her lifeless pet. She thinks often of her dead rabbit and even more often of everyone else’s death. Gilda is now 24 and riven with anxiety.

She has been to the hospital so many times the staff all greet her by name, even the cleaners.

She has been sacked from her job at a bookstore because her employer thought she was untrustworthy and irresponsible; unsurprising really given she slept so badly she was often late or missed an entire shift. Her bedroom fills with wobbly stacks of dirty dishes; her hair is greasy because she does not shower.

Amongst the detritus in her flat, actually in the oven drawer (she doesn’t cook), Gilda finds an advertisement: ‘‘Are you feeling low? Do you need someone to talk to?’’.

Desperate, Gilda goes to the address noted and discovers an enormous gothic church. Jeff, the priest, thinks she has come about the receptionists job. The last receptionist was ‘‘lost to the Lord just last month’’ Jeff says; he wants somebody young who can use the internet and whose hearing is intact. Even Gilda can meet this criteria and she is hired. As an atheist lesbian, though, she has to tell some mistruths to get the job.

She starts to enjoy the job at Peach Tree Crescent church. The congregation are all eccentric and totally tolerant of Gilda’s foibles including her occasional no-shows. There is, however, a growing problem. Gilda’s attempts to help one of the parishioners who is going through a particularly hard time comes back to bite her spectacularly. It is a most entertaining ride.

Significantly, the story is a vehicle for an insightful and empathetic description of the internal life of a person who suffers anxiety and the deadpan humour takes it from sad to optimistic.

Anne Stevens QC is a Dunedin barrister

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