What Should We Do Instead of Killing Ourselves?


Fiction - Womens
340 Pages
Reviewed on 11/28/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite

What Should We Do Instead of Killing Ourselves? by Elizabeth Gordon follows a professional reader's journey as she searches for the author of an anonymous suicide journal, discovering her own demons along the way. Liz works as a professional reader for Jarvis Publishers, a publishing company in New York City. After receiving an anonymous journal via the mail, Liz discovers it to be a suicide journal written within a span of a year, between 2017-18. Determined to locate the author, Liz travels to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, meeting the relatives of three different victims of suicide. Liz's journey has a profound effect on her, forcing her to face her own inner demons. However, a panic-attack-induced trip to the hospital provides her with a fresh perspective on her preconceived notions. It eventually prepares her for a confrontation with her boss, Marcus.

A nuanced and thoughtful examination of depression and the fragility of human existence, What Should We Do Instead of Killing Ourselves? evokes feelings of melancholia and optimism alike with complex subject matters that make you introspect. Author Elizabeth Gordon takes a deep dive into the psyche of suicide victims, taking a mature approach with a narrative that feels as authentic as it is riveting to read. A character-driven drama at its core, this is one of the finest examples of slow-burn storytelling. The way the journal resonates with Liz, leading her to question the purpose and meaning of life, strikes a chord. This book is for anyone who enjoys philosophical musings on the human condition. Highly recommended.

Cecelia Hopkins

What Should We Do Instead of Killing Ourselves? by Elizabeth Gordon reads like a mystery story and takes the reader on a journey of discovery. Professional slush reader, Liz, receives an anonymous journal that is shocking and compelling. Assuming the writer was a recent suicide from Pittsburgh where the envelope had been postmarked, Liz begins amateur detective work using Google. Marcus, her boss, challenges the assumption that all victims are female and forces her to consider a broad group of potentials including a Muslim teen, a transgender male, and an alleged sex offender. Compelled to meet the bereaved families, Liz finds each story is unique and challenging, opening up complex points of view, and taking her to her own darkest places. Yet there is healing and reconciliation as well, as even her immediate supervisor is a more complex individual than Liz realized.

What Should We Do Instead of Killing Ourselves? by Elizabeth Gordon is compelling reading. The narrative uncovers multiple points of view, and cleverly reframes the journal extract each time the narrator considers a new candidate. I immensely enjoyed the unfolding revelations about each possibility and liked the way the story cleverly presented diversity, making every individual into a complex character, building layers upon layers. I was thrilled and surprised when even the narrator, who was presented as female with a generic American-sounding name, was revealed. Time and time again, the unveiling stratagem challenged my automatic assumptions and delivered a shock of self-discovery that was quite ironic and dramatic.

Vincent Dublado

What Should We Do Instead of Killing Ourselves? by Elizabeth Gordon tells the story of a book editor who gets drawn to a submitted notebook—a long suicide note that leads her to a profound search for its author. Liz works at a publishing house in New York. Like many of us, she has her own share of professional woes. She is aiming to achieve a higher rank, but the possibilities seem remote. In a company that strictly adheres to the rank and file norms, Liz spends most of her time poring over piles of submissions, most of which are either unpublishable or still leave plenty of room for improvement. The mundaneness of her job changes when she receives a submitted notebook that contains a long suicide note. Liz is drawn to the note for its literary and philosophical value. Her boss, Marcus, wants it published and believes he has an idea as to the author’s identity. And so begins Liz’s journey to Pittsburgh in search of the unnamed author.

What Should We Do Instead of Killing Ourselves? is filled with raw emotion. Elizabeth Gordon gives you different angles in examining the crisis of existence. She is curiously expressive and lets passion and curiosity weave through the fabric of the storyline. With intelligent and convincing characters, this novel has a certain winsome charm because of Liz’s personal warmth under her feeling of isolation in an urban jungle where she doesn’t have a family. She is a strong character both in heart and mind. Her constant complaints about her job might tick you off, but, hey, she still gets the job done, and this is a scenario that most of us have been in. For its narrative mastery and intriguing plot, this is a novel that warrants your attention.