Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Enid has often had to make accommodations because of being deaf in one ear, such as being endlessly patient with strangers who think she’s rudely ignoring them when she simply cannot hear them. As an awkward teenager, she had a whole YouTube channel dedicated to makeup tips and venting about the cliques at school and one bully in particular. Her late father was always something of a sore point, given that he abandoned Enid and her mother and started (and stayed with) a whole new family. But now, Enid has a great job as an information specialist for the space agency. She goes on as many dates as possible with as many different women as she likes. And she’s finally going to start building a relationship with her previously distant half-sisters, brought together by the passing of their father. Even better, Enid has made a surprising romantic connection with a woman named Polly. The surprise? Enid was unwittingly the “other woman.” All in all, things should be great…except Enid has this nagging feeling that something’s wrong.

It started with a bald neighbor lingering outside her door. Then, she thought she saw his face in the window. Enid starts to notice odd things around her apartment. There’s a door open that she knows she closed, or the window’s left unlocked. Her neighbor tells her an unfamiliar man has come by to see her a few times. The true crime podcasts Enid listens to endlessly fuel her paranoia. Soon, Enid is looking for any excuse to avoid going home for fear of bald men. She’ll drop by her mother’s house, sleep over with Polly, even crash on her friend Vin’s sofa. Just as she reaches the boiling point, Enid elects to go to therapy where she’s encouraged to desensitize herself to bald men. Then, her therapist encourages Enid to dig into the memories of high school that she has long blocked out. Reluctantly, Enid begins to unravel her memories and starts to understand how deeply her life and behavior has been influenced by her compensating for her disability and the truth about her phobia of bald men.

Interesting Facts About Space is a contemporary novel from author Emily Austin. There’s a subtle undertone of paranormal that becomes increasingly pronounced over the course of the book. Enid’s love of true crime podcasts, which are often showcased as snippets in the prose, helped create an eerie context and helped me suspend my disbelief. Plus, there were Enid’s own idiosyncrasies, like having to rush from her car to her door or into her mother’s house to avoid being caught by a bald man, both of which are permutations of childhood fears she had. The overall effect made it plausible that Enid is a potentially unreliable narrator, while still having a good dose of “it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.”

Even with this looming question of paranormal activity, I felt like Enid’s relationships with the various characters in the book are what really drive the story. I loved the interpersonal connections she had with the primary supporting characters. The heavy hitters are her mother; her coworker, Vin; and her on-again/off-again surprise lover, Polly. Each character feels so well rounded and dimensional; their interactions with Enid are rich and give a gravitas to the story that far exceeds any paranormal goings on, in my opinion. I loved how Enid collects interesting facts about space to share with her mother as a coping mechanism when Enid gets stressed about interacting with her half-sisters or when she feels like those interactions somehow diminish Enid’s connection to her mother. Vin is shown to be a terrific friend and I adored the scene where he and Enid accidentally bump into Enid’s half-sisters. There was a potential for Vin to be upset that Enid doesn’t immediately showcase him as her best friend, but Vin takes the awkward introduction in stride. Polly was a great love interest and brought out a deeper side to Enid, one that Enid herself seems scared to explore.

I enjoyed how the story flows. As noted above, the weird happenings and suddenly ubiquitous bald men keep layering atop each other to build tension. Enid’s near obsession with true crime makes for a steady, if macabre, through-line. Her old YouTube videos are a steady stream of insight into younger Enid, a version of herself she almost entirely disassociates with. Taken individually, these elements are all interesting enough. However, they all come together after Enid has something of a breakthrough with her therapist. It’s not quite like a dam breaking, but rather a realization that all of these things actually cleave together. That is not to say everything is resolved and all is “normal,” but it’s like a door opening for Enid to be more comfortable in her own skin as she continues to navigate a world not built for her.

Overall, I thought this was a really great book. The story features a great cast of characters that felt delightfully dimensional. Personally, I love it when even supporting characters feel like they are their own people rather than convenient ways to develop the plot. If you enjoy stories where the MC has to contend with a world not designed with them in mind and going through a major self-discoveries that help bring her closer to the people in her life, and finding a shot a real love while she’s at it, I think you’ll really enjoy Interesting Facts About Space.