"What possible treatment plan could there be for people who’d seen the truth? Because most of all what we didn’t trust was the world."
Daryl Gregory’s “We Are All Completely Fine” is a stunning, genre-bending story that follows six survivors of unspeakable horrors that attempt to deal with their traumatic pasts by participating in group therapy. All members of the group had been involved in fringe supernatural occurrences: one man was partially cannibalized by a family who worships a spider god. Another woman somehow survived having her bones carved into scrimshaw. A third woman who grew up in a cult had her body used as a canvas for carving scars into artwork. After years of "treatment," she was finally ready to be a host vessel for a Hidden One trying to inhabit her body.
Heavy stuff, but extremely compelling. The relatively short length of the book helped to quickly push its pace, and it allowed for frequent major reveals as well as subtle hints of something much larger at play. This story could easily have spanned several full-length novels, but I appreciate how a few details were carefully utilized, asking the reader to fill in the blanks. This strategy allowed much of the mystery and horror to germinate inside my head.
Over the course of many weekly group meetings, the victims start to open up and share their stories. They begin to realize that they can never escape their past, and start to depend on each other’s companionship and shared histories to aim towards some semblance of a normal life. But what is normal? The rest of the world isn’t privy to their supernatural experiences. Even though each member of the group has suffered some form of living hell, they were also rewarded with the knowledge – or curse – that there is much more to this world than what everyone else believes.
The narrative style is worth noting. Each chapter starts in the first person, with an invisible narrator using the pronoun “we” as part of the therapy group. Eventually, the focus shifts to the third person, changing the point of view to one of the group therapy members. The “we” is dropped as the reader gains access to thoughts inside another character’s mind. It’s an interesting take, and one that helped make me feel that I was personally involved in the therapy sessions. It urged me to reflect on my own personal tragedies, and unpack what had helped me move past some of those lingering feelings. I realized that over time, companionship and support can help heal some of the pain, but not all of it. The people in this story learn to accept their past along with the differences in the world that only they can see. No matter how dark you may find it, facing it together is where real strength can be drawn.
This is an unusual book that I find difficult to recommend to everyone, as some of the content may be painful to digest. But if you allow their experiences to seep into your thoughts, it might help you change your views on the value of communication and dealing with past fears or regret. It is uncommon for a book to have led me to this point of self-reflection, so I am comfortable grading it with a high mark.
Review by Adam Weller
8.4/10 from 1 reviews
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