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Book Review: Emily Austin’s “Interesting Facts About Space”

Austin’s novel is less about space and more about learning to love and be loved.

Canadian author Emily Austin set the bar high with her highly praised debut novel “Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead.” Readers had high expectations for her next novel, and it didn’t disappoint. “Interesting Facts About Spaceis full of dark humour and candid glimpses into the chaotic life of the main character, Enid.

On the surface, Enid is juggling a relationship with her estranged sisters, looking after her mom, and her fear of bald men. Beneath all of that, she is spiralling into paranoia, driven by her belief that she is a truly horrible person. The paranoia leads her think that a bald man is stalking her, and potentially planning to kill her. She holds even those closest to her at arm’s length to keep them from seeing the horrible parts of her. Enid believes that she deserves both the loneliness and her looming death at the hand of a bald man.

The portrayal of mental health in the novel is candid and unfiltered. Enid’s mother suffered from depressive episodes ever since Enid’s childhood. Subsequently, Enid spends more time caring for her mother’s mental health than her own. Austin takes readers into Enid’s therapy sessions that are uncomfortable and difficult, but incredibly important for Enid’s well-being.

Enid is eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and is referred for an autism assessment. There was no dramatic, life-altering moment that caused Enid’s PTSD as she had originally thought. Rather, it was years of trauma stemming from her family and bullying that manifested into PTSD. The diagnosis doesn’t magically solve Enid’s self-loathing and paranoia. Instead, it’s through honest conversations with her loved ones that she’s able to see that she’s worthy of love. It’s a refreshing representation of mental health and therapy that doesn’t shy away from the ugly parts of it.

The conversations Enid has with people in her life remind us that we all feel a little lost sometimes. However, we aren’t alone in our moments of self-doubt or even self-hatred. We are flawed and messy, but not any less worthy of love. Seeing Enid take steps toward accepting herself was incredibly healing to read.

Enid is also hard-of-hearing, something not often represented in books, but something Austin portrayed beautifully. Enid’s past and present experiences with her disability affects her daily life and adds to the feeling that something is wrong with her. Through a hard-of-hearing online community, Enid begins to see that she isn’t alone or messed up because of her disability.

Austin has a way of building a story gradually and meticulously, making for an intimate novel. She creates a language for her reader that allows them to understand what’s happening beneath the words on the page. It’s clear what little things like lipstick, the smell of something burning, and interesting facts about space really mean. 

The groundwork for the plot-twist is carefully laid out and gives readers that satisfying — though slightly horrifying — “aha” moment. After I was able to pick my jaw up off the floor, Austin’s careful foreshadowing became clear.

The novel spirals right along with Enid into chaos and mild insanity, but ends with a perfectly imperfect resolution. Reading Austin’s novel can be pessimistic and dark at times, which had me bracing for the worst ending possible. However, the story’s resolution pleasantly surprised me. Everything doesn’t end up fixed. But, Enid grows and learns to love and receive love.

This is a novel that I will be thinking about for years to come. Austin’s way of writing drew me right in and hasn’t let go. The characters she built were done with so much care, yet so truthfully. It’s a novel that makes me feel a little more sane, even when I have my doubts. I will undoubtedly revisit this novel time and time again.

Leah Hennig

Leah is the 2024-25 Opinion Editor! She is in her first year studying English and media studies. In her spare time, she can be found reading, painting, and missing her dog while drinking too much coffee.

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