Of course there are sadder things. This is a drop in the bucket. The world is full of so much sadness that it eclipses the sadness of this. That doesn’t actually make this any less sad, it just means that there is so much potent sadness on earth that this becomes trivial. Everything becomes trivial. Nothing matters.
Gilda is sad. She can’t hold down a job, she’s just gotten into a car accident, the neighbor’s cat is missing after their house caught fire, her brother is an alcoholic, and her parents are in denial. But she’s fine.
Gilda suffers from crippling anxiety, making life in general hard to live. The dishes in her apartment often go unwashed, she often goes unwashed. She doesn’t want to bother anybody or make a spectacle, which often leads to her getting in awkward situations. After the car accident, she drives herself to the hospital with a broken arm, because she doesn’t like being a spectacle. When she pauses outside of a Catholic church one day, Father Jeff assumes she’s there for a job interview. Unable to correct him, Gilda soon finds herself as the new church secretary – the new gay, atheist secretary of a Catholic church.
She is replacing the recently deceased former secretary, Grace. As Gilda starts to tackle the church’s email, she realizes that Grace has been using the church’s account to send personal messages. Gilda finds several messages from Grace’s friend Rosemary, who obviously doesn’t know that Grace has passed away. Rather than having to tell Rosemary about her friend and upset her, Gilda poses as Grace. At the same time, she’s trying to keep up the façade of being Catholic, convince her parents that her brother is an alcoholic and needs help, and maintain a relationship with her girlfriend, not to mention just trying to do the basic everyday tasks necessary for life. When police discover suspicious circumstances around Grace’s death, Gilda becomes a suspect. In order to clear her name, she may have to reveal everything.
Reading this book hurt my brain, but in a very, very good way. The whole book is from Gilda’s point of view, so you get all of her anxieties, confusion, and intrusive thoughts. I also suffer from anxiety, though on a much lesser scale than Gilda, so I really related to Gilda in a lot of ways. While it might be hard for anyone who doesn’t have anxiety and/or depression to understand Gilda’s thoughts and actions, I felt that the author really did a fantastic job at accurately portraying Gilda’s illness.
I also love how the author illustrates how other people often misunderstand and react to people with this type of mental illness. Gilda gets set up with a man who exudes nothing but toxic positivity. His philosophy in life is that you just have to choose what you want and want it bad enough, and then it will come to you.
“I felt directionless,” he continues. “Hopeless. I see it all the time in my clients.”
“How did you fix that?” I ask.
“Oh, that’s the secret.” He laughs. “It’s actually so simple. You have to choose happiness,” he explains.
“Choose happiness?” I clarify.
“Easy as that!”
I absolutely love Gilda’s internal monologue in response :
I have chosen happiness. Out of fall the emotions set out on the table, I have selected it. It is by far the superior option. It’s insane to think I would have ever picked one of those shittier emotions before – when all the while, I could have chosen shiny, shimmering, iridescent happiness.
Gilda’s sarcasm completely hits the nail on the head, nobody would choose to feel the way she feels if there was actually an option to choose. There is no choice in having mental illness, and often there is no choice in how that illness manifests and how it affects your life.
This book reminded me a lot of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, except that you know what Gilda’s illness is, there’s no ambiguity about what’s going on with her. I enjoyed this read, and flew through it. I read the bulk of it in a single afternoon. Gilda is so human, and the people around her are wonderful and wonderfully flawed.