The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey

I’ve heard of death dinner parties and coffin clubs, but a support group that talks about death-related anxiety was new to me – welcome to The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey.

The central character is twenty-something Caitlin, who is convinced she’s going to die.

Just over the horizon. Murder. Multiple organ failure. All the days, disappearing.

Caitlin had been living a ‘normal’ adult life – climbing the career ladder and planning travel with her best friend. A car accident left her believing that she was alive by ‘mistake’, and her life quickly unraveled – failed relationships; self-medicating with alcohol; and a ‘dead-end’ job as a waitress. Her weekly meetings with her support group, the Morbids, keeps her afloat.

Caitlin’s carefully managed ‘anxiety’ (actually, it’s PTSD) is disrupted when her best friend announces she’s getting married in Bali. At the same time, she meets Tom, an attractive doctor. Suddenly there are things in Caitlin’s life that are demanding her to be present.

There were elements of this book that I thought were terrific – the very idea of the Morbids was intriguing and I’d love to be a fly-on-the-wall in one of their sessions. Describing her death anxieties (mugging and freak accidents), Caitlin says –

The primary was the one you thought about all the time, that you’d almost accepted as inevitable. The secondary was more an uncomfortable niggle, a reason to cross the road but not to stay home.

Ramsey nails the group-therapy scenes, and manages to create characters that represent all of the major players in any group (regardless of why the group is together) – the organiser, the mediator, the stirrer, the clown, and so on. Ramsey gives enough of a back story for group members without getting bogged in detail, and the scenes are vivid and funny, without making a joke of anxiety.

Frannie and Louise were sitting with their heads bent together, looking at something on the back of Frannie’s hand. A skin cancer, probably. Or her manicure…

Equally good were the scenes at the restaurant – it had a great Sweetbitter vibe.

Do authors do an ’emotional plotline’ when they’re planning a novel? I wonder, because occasionally in this book, what Caitlin was feeling was out-of-step with what she was doing. Equally, the way the miscommunications between some characters played out weren’t wholly convincing. Of course, it’s possible that I over-analyse this stuff.

The title and the blurb are a little misleading – this is more of a rom-com than a deep dive into mental health (can you guess which I prefer?!), and overall a relatively light story which explores friendship, anxiety, and the idea that we never really know what is going on for someone.

2.5/5 Not morbid!

“They’re doing retro cocktails. I have a jug of illusions.”
I grimaced. “Really?”
“Tastes like being fourteen again.”


18 responses

  1. You analyse group therapy interactions the way I analyse novels which feature trucks. Far too intensely. But yes I also know it’s unavoidable. A guy who’d done a bit of group therapy writes a book around a funny group therapy premise. Apparently it only half works.

  2. It just goes to show that reader perspectives can vary so widely. This is the second review of this I’ve read in my WordPress feed in the last 10 mins. The other review said it was a serious novel about mental illness….

    • Now I’m curious to read the serious review! I certainly think the issue at its heart is serious – PTSD – but there’s also a lot that seems designed around getting a laugh, and the romantic eleemnts of the book are light.

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