“We Are All Completely Fine” is a novella is about sole survivors of extreme traumas with a supernatural not-credible-to-the-authorities flavour, who are brought together by a psychiatrist to “work” in Group Therapy sessions. As time goes by, it becomes clear that the group has not been assembled randomly and that their status as survivors may be only temporary.
It sounds like a good, compelling thriller. It isn’t. It’s something else. I’m just not sure what.
The book is disturbing and difficult to listen to. The violence and inhumanity that the members of the Group have been through is extreme, repulsive, and shared in an almost off-handed manner that makes it quite chilling. The crippling impact of these events on their lives, sometime decades later, is entirely believable and deeply sad but the style of storytelling, nested in the context of “Therapy” and delivered with a sort of distant intimacy, that reduces the emotional impact until what is left is a kind of unempathic voyeurism.
Daryl Gregory writes well, so I’m sure the tone of the book is deliberate, I’m just a little lost about what it is supposed to achieve.
For example, each chapter starts from the point of view of an anonymous person who, from their use of the term “We”, seems to be a member of the Group; yet, in a number of cases, this anonymous narrator refers to all the members of the Group, one by one, without using the term “I”. It is skillfully done. It contributes to the clinical but intimate feel of the story. I assumed I would eventually find out who the narrator was and why they’d been kept anonymous. If Gregory did provide an explanation, it slipped by me.
Perhaps I’m being obtuse in not being able to work out why Gregory used this conceit rather than a more conventional authorial voice but this tale doesn’t have enough substance in it to make it worth my while to work that hard.
The end of the book felt anti-climatic to me. Perhaps Gregory wanted to stress that in life no story ends but for me, reading fiction rather than philosophy, it felt like the author either wimped out off writing a longer novel or had extended a short story to the point that the impact of the ending was lost.
I loved Gregory’s writing but I finished the book feeling disappointed.