c. 2024, Atria, $27.99, 320 pages
People just don’t understand you.
They don’t “get” you at all. Your sense of humor goes over their heads. If you’re happy, you’re weird; if you’re angry, it makes no sense to them. You’re an enigma to most people – even sometimes, as in the new book “Interesting Facts about Space” by Emily Austin, you’re an enigma to yourself.
Enid Hughes wasn’t entirely sure why she was at her half-sister’s gender reveal party.
Truth was, Enid found those kinds of parties rather repugnant, but whatever, her half-sisters seemed to want a relationship with her. She didn’t know why that, either. It wasn’t like they all grew up together or anything; their father out-and-out abandoned her in favor of his second family. It was all just so awkward.
That whole thing still depressed Enid’s mother, years later, which Enid thought about as she spent party-time surreptitiously texting space facts to her mom. Space facts were comforting and a way of checking in. She also sometimes texted women she’d met online, random hook-ups she’d had with zero plans of ever seeing any of the women again.
Usually, that was a way to avoid a mess, but she’d recently learned that she’d been duped into seeing someone who was married, and things got complicated when the woman’s wife found out. Yes, Enid was a lesbian, so what? When she was younger, she thought of boys and marriage, but she eventually decided that love was for everybody else.
For real, who would put up with someone who thought her apartment was being cased, or who had a serious phobia of bald men and their smell? Nobody in their right mind would put up with a woman who was obsessed with true-crime podcasts or who loved the stars, planets, and the moon, or who texted a pre-written message when she wanted to break up.
Who’d want to date someone who was constantly being watched?
Don’t be surprised if you’re mystified when you first start “Interesting Facts about Space.” Don’t be surprised if you squirm, either, because it’s an uncomfortable read.
Which doesn’t mean that you won’t want to continue.
Enid’s story is compelling, but as a character, she’s hard to categorize, and author Emily Austin doesn’t make that easy to figure out. Enid’s not gregarious or particularly friendly; her odd-duck ways are charming and abrasive with the lightest whiff of humor, but she’s also depreciative and sad and that doesn’t abate – which may not make her very likable but you still won’t quit her. So why not?
Because you know something’s coming. Like or dislike, Enid’s quite the conundrum until you get toward the end of this story and the whole thing pivots. Suddenly, everything you’ve read, every angsty comment and weird quirk is turned upside down, and you will be, too.
It’s a nice pay-off if you can warm up to the quirkiness of this story and stick around. Until then, you may wonder why you’re immersed in “Interesting Facts about Space.” A few pages in, and you’ll understand.