Emily Austin’s Interesting Facts About Space (Atria Books, 2023) is everything fans of her first novel, Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead have been hoping for. This deeply funny, cleverly romantic, and ultimately hopeful story stars twenty-six-year-old Enid, a protagonist who has much in common with Everyone in This Room’s Gilda. While they share some broad character traits as young, anxious lesbian women, Austin’s skilled character-building makes Enid feel deeply singular yet intrinsically relatable.
It seems that Enid’s resonance only grows as the author fleshes out the depth of her eccentricities. Between her use of gruesome true crime podcasts as a coping mechanism, her obsessive watching (and reporting) of her teenage YouTube channel, and her increasingly debilitating (and seemingly random) fear of bald men, one can’t help but feel that Enid is a real-life friend who needs our help.
Dedicated to Austin’s mother, the novel is structured in part by Enid’s conversations with her mom in which she shares “interesting facts about space.” An employee at the National Space Agency, Enid talks about space when she is trying to talk about love and guilt. She tells her mother about Jupiter’s storms and the speed of light when she is torn between wanting a relationship with her half-sisters – introduced to her after her absent father’s death – and feeling she is betraying her mother by getting to know them.
Without being overly formulaic, the novel ultimately follows Enid through a painful, impressively humorous path to self-awareness that culminates in big resolutions with the people she loves. Though the book itself doesn’t problematize it, I can’t imagine Austin’s naming of Edna – only one letter away from the less common name of Enid – wasn’t a way to signal that while her sister seems to live the ideal, well-adjusted life Enid can’t even imagine, the sisters themselves – and the people in Enid’s life more broadly – are not all that different from each other. Even when Enid reveals her fears of being controlled by a parasite – the destructive inner-self she feels is underserving of love – Edna does not back away from her sister, instead literally and emotionally embracing her.
As Enid reveals buried parts of herself to her work friend turned friend-friend Vin and her seemingly perfect half-sister Edna, she comes to realize that she is not as trapped in her mind as she had long believed. Supported by her new therapist and emboldened by an unexpectedly serious romantic entanglement, Enid learns to be brutally honest with herself and even her mother, allowing them both to move forward amid the memories that have long been holding them back.
A novel that will have you rooting for its flawed, loveable protagonist and laughing every step of the way, Interesting Facts About Space is sure to resonate with Austin’s loyal and growing following. For those new to Austin and her quirky, complex characters, this novel is a beautiful portrait of the freedom and meaningful connections that come from facing our fears, however anxiously and imperfectly.
About the Author
Emily Austin was born in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. She studied English literature, religious studies, and library science at Western University. She received two writing grants from the Canada Council for the Arts. She currently lives in Ottawa, in the territory of the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation.
- Publisher : Atria Books; Canadian Export edition (Jan. 30 2024)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1668055678
- ISBN-13 : 978-1668055670
Catherine Marcotte is an avid reader, writer, and editor. She is pursuing her MA in English Literature and Language at Queen’s University where she is writing about intersectional feminism and ecocriticism while interrogating the boundaries between personal and academic writing.