Saturday 23 November 2013

The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

Expected publication
February 2014

From the beginning of the book we know that the narrator, Rachel has recently died and is inhabiting a form of private purgatory where she can view her loved ones as if from afar but who is unable to make any sort of physical contact with them. Through Rachel’s unique form of analysis we meet with her grieving husband, Max and their bewildered seven year old daughter Ellie, both of whom are still struggling to deal with the aftermath of Rachel’s unexpected death.

What then follows is the story of how the grieving process evolves and even though well meaning friends feel that Max should be able to move on, somehow ‘moving on’ isn’t as important as remembering what has been lost in the first place. Despite the premise of the book being controlled by the feelings evoked around death and dying, it isn’t always a sad story, there are moments when the book is quite uplifting.

Ultimately, however, this is a story about what happens to those who are left behind following the death of a loved one, and is testament to how everyone experiences grief and loss in quite different ways. There are subtle chapter references to the five stages of grief first recounted by the eminent American physician, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, whose book ‘On Death and Dying’ is still the definitive work on the grieving process.

The author has captured the emotional aspect of grief very well and with a subtle hand has explored the vagaries of loss in an appealing and eloquent way. The book is very readable and gets the message across without ever resorting to over sentimentality. It is a commendable debut novel, and I look forward with interest to more books from this talented author.

My thanks to Real Readers and Penguin for the advance copy of this book to read and review

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