We are all completely fine, promises the title. Except we're in group therapy. At least our group is completely fine. Except we all share stories we never expected anyone else to believe.
The former boy detective survived whatever happened in Dunnsmouth. The name of that place tells you something about the tone of this book; we don't need details about whatever happened at Dunwich, sorry, Innsmouth, I mean, Dunnsmouth. We know. (And if you don't, there is a good chance you'll find the book a bit lacking, not so much because of this specific reference, but all the common genre tropes and references it employs.) The old amputee in the wheelchair was the sole survivor of his particular ordeal. His scars are more visible than most; the woman next to him has to lift the hem of her tailored skirt to show a hint of the marks that were left on her. The young, frightened man is secretive about his special glasses. Then there is the girl who is not a monster, honest, a lot of people are dead, and there certainly are monsters, but...
I've read one of Gregory's previous books, The devil's alphabet, which shared some traits with this last one: Interesting premise, characters with clear voices, a storytelling style that quietly kept me turning the page until I ran out of book. I feel good about having three other books with his name on lying in wait, because I suspect they, too, are what I think of as Sunday reads, they way a pile of syrupy waffles is breakfast when you use Sunday as a prefix. Something that is very easy to like. A Sunday read may have you licking the plate even though you're full, or, you know, keep you reading only a little too late into the night, because you couldn't just leave that tiny leftover for tomorrow. This may make less sense than I had originally planned. Nice things are nice, okay.
I often fall into the trap of thinking an easy read - which this book is, to me - must be light in value, content, style, beauty, whatever. It isn't true. Struggle is not a prerequisite for quality. I catch myself describing this book like a candy bar because it's yummy and I am culturally conditioned to speak of yummy things in an apologetic manner, always using the "Of course I know it's not a restaurant dinner, but..." You see? I'm going to work on this, because neither the book nor I have anything to be apologetic about.
So is there anything wrong with the book? Possibly the story, or the plot, is a bit small, but I find this acceptable because my brain files this novella as pilot episode. It's setup, it's introducing the characters, showing how they get thrown together. An origin story made out of individual origin stories, sort of. A good pilot is different from a good episode, or film, or whatever. Even if this doesn't get a sequel - though I feel like it was strongly implied, and I would be happy to have one - it's still a book that is, well, good at being what it is. I'm not disappointed.
Side inanity: Earlier this year, I read Karen Joy Fowler's "We are all completely beside ourselves". Is this the new black? We are all completely something? We fat robots are all completely in favor of this.)