How Not To Die Alone by Richard Roper was my book of the month. I would place the book in the humorous fiction category, with a bit of dark humor mixed in. If you have enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, you will love How Not To Die Alone. Richard Roper is able to touch on the subjects of death, grief, loneliness, and bittersweet friendship while still maintaining a light mood that kept me laughing all the way through.
“Andrew could think of many things he’d rather be doing that evening-most of them involving his testicles, some jam, and some aggrieved hornets…” – Roper, Page 115
Andrew works for the city council. He has the lovely job of going to people’s houses who have died in their district without anyone being aware that they were even gone. After the body is taken away, it’s Andrew’s job to hunt through what is left of their life to find next of kin and the money required to cover the funeral costs. If he finds no family, Andrew attends every funeral as an act of service for those who have passed alone, unnoticed. A fairly distressing job, but thankfully, he gets to return home to his wife Diane and his two beautiful children at the end of each day.
“In Andrew’s experience, the places fell into two categories: either they were immaculately clean-no dust, no cobwebs, not a thing out of place-or they were overpoweringly squalid. It was the former that Andrew found the most upsetting by far, because to him it never felt as simple as the deceased’s just being house-proud. Instead, it seemed more likely that they knew that when they died they were going to be found by a stranger and couldn’t bear the thought of leaving a mess.” – Roper, Page 52
Except he doesn’t, because Diane and the kids don’t exist. Due to a hilarious and misfortunate misunderstanding during his interview, as well as Andrew’s own awkwardness, he has been lying to his coworkers and boss for five years. They believe he has a wonderful house, a lovely family, and is quite settled down. However, the reality is that Andrew has been living in the same small flat for over 20 years, completely alone.
“As the vicar asked them to join him in reciting the Lords Prayer, the realization suddenly came to Andrew that he hadn’t been crying for Alan, or even for Beryl, but for the future version of himself, his death unmourned at a service in a drafty church with only the walls to receive the vicar’s perfunctory words.” – Roper, Page 211
Andrew has gotten pretty good at his family lie over the years, and intends to maintain it forever, until in the span of one week two things change in his life.
- Andrew’s boss (a very Michael Scott of The Office character), suggest they all need to bond by throwing dinner parties at their houses, so they can meet each other’s families and spend time together outside of work.
- Peggy joins the crew. Peggy is lively, steely, kind, spontaneous, and incredibly funny, and Andrew gets to work with her every day as they do property inspections. The problem is, Peggy may be Andrew’s first real friend, but she is also believing the lie about his life.
How Not To Die Alone was a beautiful book. Full of quirky characters that include:
- a sister who calls only every quarter of the year
- a group of online chat buddies obsessed with model trains
- an insane brother-in-law
- a never-ending list of Ella Fitzgerald songs (yes it basically becomes a character)
- many, many interesting dead people
This story will grip you. It is rare for me to laugh out loud while reading, and Richard Roper got me several times. You mourn with those who have passed, you wonder what it really means to die alone, basically forgotten. But most of all… you hope our good friend Andrew can get his crap together and really start living.
“The feeling was one of pure, almost painful happiness, like a desperate embrace squeezing air from his lungs, and it was then that the realization hit him: he might not know what the future held- pain and loneliness and fear might still yet grind him into dust-but simply feeling the possibility that things could change for him was a start, like feeling the first hint of warmth from kindling rubbed together, the first wisp of smoke.” – Roper, Page 166
Here comes the fun part! If you would like the chance to win a copy of How Not To Die Alone (which is still on pre-order until the 28th of May!!), here’s how to win!
- Be subscribed to The Honest Reader by email or WordPress (the subscription box is in the sidebar!)
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- The winner will be picked and announced on Sunday, May 19th!
Don’t forget to check out my top book picks as well! This page is completely new and sorted by genre, so it is easy to find books that interest you!