We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory. ★★★★
In this novella, five survivors of horrific supernatural events gather together for a group therapy session lead by the enigmatic Dr. Jan Sayer. Harrison was considered a hero as a teen, but now he’s in his thirties and can’t sleep at night. Stan was partly eaten by cannibals. An unearthly killer carved mysterious messages onto Barbara’s bones. Greta is covered with strange scarring, and Martin refuses to take off his sunglasses.
While there is a more traditional plot going on in the background, the heart of the novella is the characters. The novella doesn’t use flashbacks, but the characters do describe what happened to them. All have their scars, and none feel at home in the ordinary world anymore. All of them were reluctant to come to therapy, except possibly for Stan, who will talk over and over again about the trauma he went through. Yet, together, they find people who are able to understand something of what they’ve been through.
He was suspicious of the very premise of therapy. The idea that people could change themselves, he told Dr. Sayer in their pre-group interview, was a self-serving delusion. She believed that people were captains of their own destiny. He agreed, as long as it was understood that every captain was destined to go down with the ship, and there wasn’t a damned thing you could do about it. If you want to stand there with the wheel in your hand and pretend you were steering, he told her, knock yourself out.
We Are All Completely Fine is a complicated, dark story with a cast of damaged people at it’s core. I would highly recommend it, and I hope Gregory decides to write a sequel.