REVIEW: Everything Feels Like the End of the World by Else Fitzgerald

In brief: A collection of short stories exploring the effects of climate change in the future.

The good: Intense feelings combined with a wake up call.

The not-so-good: It’s scarily real and so sad at times.

Why I chose it: I loved the cover. Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the copy.

Year: 2022

Pages: 252

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Setting: Future Australia

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Everything Feels Like the End of the World is a short story collection with a common theme that grows as the reader progresses through each story. If you were on the fence regarding climate change before reading this, you will certainly understand the impact on individuals, families and the country afterwards. The feelings of devastation, regret and so much loss have a real impact on the reader.

The stories are set in a future Australia, one that scarily enough, may not be that far away. The landscapes are changed irreparably by flood, fire or extremes of temperature. The book starts in a setting that is very familiar to now, and as the stories progress into the future technology takes a greater role as those that still exist must learn to survive in a world that looks so different. Think living underground to deal with the heat, flooding that destroys towns and capital cities or living in the sky leaving an underclass to deal with life on the land. Some of the stories take a more distant view of the impact on people, while others are up close and personal with the effects on individuals and families.

The main themes running through the collection are loss, fear and regret. Sometimes these are at the individual level like regrets in a relationship but a common thread is regret that the people of the world did not do something about climate change before it was too late. An anger that ancestors didn’t lift a finger to help future generations and left a land that was no longer fit for purpose. Individuals fear for their lives and those of their children (deciding whether to have children and subject them to the ravages of an inhospitable world occurs in several stories). A rage where wars are fought over water and home become victim to rising tides. Yet there is evidence of tiny shards of hope in other parts of their lives – the freedom to love whoever and to celebrate connections. Fitzgerald creates scenes that are strong with loss and the desolation of the country.

I did have to stop a few times while reading Everything Feels Like the End of the World as the sense of loss and anger grew. As the book progressed, the scenarios became less familiar and more sci-fi (robots, other AI and new creatures) but it didn’t take away from the devastation. There is a strong undercurrent in this collection that all this could be true if we don’t act on climate change now and that is deeply scary.

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