How Not to Die Alone
Written by: Richard Roper
Read by: Simon Vance
8 Hours and 53 Minutes
Publisher PRHA | Imprint: Penguin Audio
Genre: Fiction – Women
Release Date: May 28, 2019
Smart, darkly funny, and life-affirming, How Not to Die Alone is the bighearted debut novel we all need, for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, it’s a story about love, loneliness, and the importance of taking a chance when we feel we have the most to lose.
“Wryly funny and quirkily charming.”–Eleanor Brown, author of The Weird Sisters
Sometimes you need to risk everything…to find your something.
Andrew’s been feeling stuck.
For years he’s worked a thankless public health job, searching for the next of kin of those who die alone. Luckily, he goes home to a loving family every night. At least, that’s what his coworkers believe.
Then he meets Peggy.
A misunderstanding has left Andrew trapped in his own white lie and his lonely apartment. When new employee Peggy breezes into the office like a breath of fresh air, she makes Andrew feel truly alive for the first time in decades.
Could there be more to life than this?
But telling Peggy the truth could mean losing everything. For twenty years, Andrew has worked to keep his heart safe, forgetting one important thing: how to live. Maybe it’s time for him to start. https://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.com/book/603543/how-not-to-die-alone/
I just noticed this book written by a man and about a man dealing with loss with a stiff upper lip and a bundle of lies is classified as Women’s Fiction. That’s interesting and I have to ask why: Are books dealing with mental illness, depression, loss, family, etc. classified thus? Why?
That;s not the book’s, nor the author’s fault though so let me move on.
As I read this story I was struck by two things: there’s am emerging genre British-placed fiction that deals with the inability of some to recover from emotional trauma. Trauma is universal though. I’ve read at least , for example Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Where Eleanor Oliphant was living in a total misery after a truly horrific childhood, using alcohol as an anesthesia of recall, Andrew is a sad sack who received little love after his parent’s died and his sister left – he had additional loss we’re not privy to until it is dropped into the narrative rather late. The second thing I kept thinking of — even if this is not a sub-genre of British fiction — was this verse and the refrain from the Beatles’ song: Eleanor Rigby.
Eleanor Rigby, died in the church
And was buried along with her name
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt
From his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was savedAll the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul McCartneyEleanor Rigby lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Interesting that for Eleanor Oliphant the social services were involved top some extent but at no point in this tale does anyone suggest help could assist Andrew with his obvious issues, and then later, realigning his fantasy life with his real one. This is a fantasy of a book because no where could someone overcome the degree of illness based on years – a lifetime – of repeated loss, repressed grief, and attempting to deal with the issues through the construction of a fantasy life. While the fantasy happens as the error of a moment, it developes a life of its own and helps keep him apart. The lie allows him to stay isolated.
Of interest here is how this man, and his new partner, have jobs that throws a life time of loneliness into stark relief as in there municipal borough (“council”) jobs they find and arrange burial for people who die alone and whose relatives, if there are any found, often say they fell out of touch, or fell out over something. When Peggy, the new partner, starts working with Andrew, her relatively normal self starts to help Andrew come out of his shell, with set backs, but with out any help other than friendship. That’s a lovely idea, but I think Andrew would need a good counselor, and possibly some prescription support, to work through the many layers of loss. With Peggy, Andrew seems to see his life heading down to the lonely death and unattended funeral the deceased for whom his job was created.
On the other hand it is a story, and yes, a fantasy of psychological recovery, that offers optimism for people who suffer from loss, or who just have unfulfilling jobs.
Simon Vance has a wonderful voice for this book: neither posh nor regional. I have no complaints or caveats. Good job!
AUTHOR on Twitter: https://twitter.com/richardroper
AUTHOR on FB: https://www.facebook.com/richard.roper?