I was first introduced to Daryl Gregory via his recent book AFTERPARTY, after hearing rave reviews by Sarah Chorn of Bookworm Blues. I really enjoyed AFTERPARTY, so when I got the chance to review WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY FINE, I jumped at the chance.
WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY FINE is the story of a support group for a very special set of victims. To quote the book blurb,
Harrison is the Monster Detective, a storybook hero. Now he’s in his mid-thirties and spends most of his time not sleeping. Stan became a minor celebrity after being partially eaten by cannibals. Barbara is haunted by the messages carved upon her bones. Greta may or may not be a mass-murdering arsonist. And for some reason, Martin never takes off his sunglasses.
Together, the group explores how people react to trauma: cynicism, depression, anger, and paranoia. They, and we, see the benefits and costs of fear–how it can motivate us and trap us.
WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY FINE mixes horror, mystery, fantasy, and more. Similarly, Gregory blends points of view, from first to third, to back again. This blending and refracting adds to the story’s unsettling nature. A dropped comment a chapter ago takes on a more sinister meaning when, two chapters later, we read from a different point of view. Harm and damage and survival take on more nuanced, complex meanings as the story progresses.
And what’s all the more impressive is that this is a novella–only 182 pages. I didn’t realize this going into the story. I started reading it while riding in the car from Nashville to DC. Normally when I read in the car, I read for about 10-15 minutes, then stop, then start again 30 minutes later. Not this time. I read it straight through. I couldn’t put it down.
Gregory is able to convey a lot of depth with quick cuts and small hints that build into a larger, interwoven story that hints at something even larger and more sinister. It’s an impressive feat. I would say it’s a fun read, but that is only how I view it now, days later. After closing the book, I had to start my driving shift, and to be honest, I couldn’t shake the story right away. It’s weird imagery and techniques stuck with me. And in my opinion, that’s the mark of a great read.