• The Good: An easy to read heartwarmer about anxiety; funny and dark
  • The Bad: Stream-of-consciousness musings about the nature of existence
  • The Literary: Frequent section breaks always make you want to just read a little more

Gilda, a twenty-six-year-old lesbian with frequent anxiety attacks, cannot stop thinking about death. She’s worried about nuclear bombs, racism, war, rape, child abuse, disease, climate change, and thinks a lot about her pet rabbit who died when she was eleven. When she finally decides to respond to a flyer for free therapy, she walks to the address, realizes it’s a Catholic church, and before she can leave, is greeted by Father Jeff, who assumes she’s there for a job interview.

Musings about life and death dominate the book, but just when I start to think this book won’t be about anything, a plot emerges. Gilda is a terrible overthinker, which often slows her interactions with other people. Plus she’s often embarrassed by the truth, and not to mention she needs money, so she agrees with Father Jeff that she is there to interview to be a church receptionist.

Father Jeff is immediately impressed by her ability to use a browser and check email, but Gilda becomes overwhelmed when she discovers the previous receptionist Grace is recently deceased. Several unread emails sit in the church inbox, which Gilda opens. An old friend writes to tell Grace her husband passed all of a sudden, so Gilda decides—so as not to add to her burden—to respond, impersonating Grace.

Gilda’s barely keeping herself together at home. She lives in an apartment filled with broken things because she doesn’t have the energy to call the landlord. Her dishes are all dirty and piled in the sink because she can’t muster the energy to wash them. When a new girlfriend comes over, she hides all the dirty dishes in the closet and brings her water in a rinsed out gatorade bottle. Gilda’s relationship with her parents and alcoholic brother are also strained, and she frequents the emergency room for anxiety attacks so much the staff know her by name.

This is a difficult book to read and an accurate portrayal of mental health. It’s also about loneliness and difficult family and not knowing how to communicate the weight of existence in a text message. But it’s also hopeful, because Gilda wants to get better. She understands people well, even the parishioners of the church, strangers who would probably hate her for being an atheist lesbian, because she’s always grieving herself. Gilda’s brief moments of happiness are so fleeting that they are often overwhelming in their beauty, and she wants that for everyone she meets.

There’s also a lot of humor here. Not laugh-out-loud humor, but smile humor, especially in Gilda’s musings about life. Unfortunately, when the climax of the book takes over and pushes the plot front and center, it isn’t quite satisfying in this very thought-heavy novel.

Recommended for anyone feeling lonely or that the world is too much.