★ ★ ★ ★ ★
We Are All Completely Fine is a fabulous, complicated novella about a group of five damaged people and the psychologist who brings them together. Dr. Jan claims she wants to help them, but the five members have been through various supernatural traumas and are accustomed to disbelief when they share their unlikely histories: “Every small group was a chemistry experiment and the procedure was always the same: bring together a group of volatile elements, put them in a tightly enclosed space, and stir. The result was never a stable compound, but sometimes you arrived at something capable of doing hard work, like a poison that killed cancer cells. And sometimes you get a bomb.“
The story becomes almost a character study as we find out more about each person, and the strange situations they’ve survived: “After all, one of the issue we had in common was that we each though we were unique. Not just survivors, but sole survivors. We wore our scars like badges.” But Gregory wisely stays away from historical info-dumping and instead allows their stories to be shared in the course of conversation. As they trust–and challenge–each other, they discover they have more in common than they expected. Shortly after, the pace catapults forward, focusing on immediate danger.
Gregory writes in ways that touch the heart of what it means to be human. He also writes in ways that are horrorific, surprising, and humorous. We Are All Completely Fine is like a psychotherapy text in comic book form, making it accessible and applicable in ways one would have never considered. There are moments that make me squirm, but they are done with such sophistication that Gregory brings me to a place of compassion.
“She believed that people were captains of their own destiny. He agreed, as long as it was understood that every captain was destined to go down with the ship, and there wasn’t a damned thing you could do about it.“
Gregory is fast becoming one of my go-to authors, with stories I can pick up in almost any mood and end up deliciously satisfied. I want something with humor? Here: “And then he wondered what the collective noun was for psychologists: a shortage of shrinks? A confession of counselors?” Or profound: “What the patients didn’t understand was that this was the human condition. The group members’ horrific experiences had not exempted them from existential crises, only exaggerated them.” Or do I need a diverting plot in a genre-bender setting to distract me from my everyday life? Gregory provides that too. I re-read this today thinking about my review, and was no less entertained or captivated–but I did highlight another handful of lovely phrases. I highly recommend it.
“Also, I might be entertaining the idea of tamping down my nihilism. Just a bit. Not because life is not meaningless–I think that’s inarguable. It’s just that the constant awareness of its pointlessness is exhausting. I wouldn’t mind being oblivious again. I’d love to feel the wind in my face and think, just for a minute, that I’m not going to crash into the rocks.“
Many, many thanks to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for a review copy, and to Carly for introducing me to Gregory’s works.