"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.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
- Chapter 1 -
Andrew looked at the coffin and tried to remember who was inside it. It was a man-he was sure of that. But, horrifyingly, the name escaped him. He thought he'd narrowed it down to either John or James, but Jake had just made a late bid for consideration. It was inevitable, he supposed, that this had happened. He'd been to so many of these funerals it was bound to at some point, but that didn't stop him from feeling an angry stab of self-loathing.
If he could just remember the name before the vicar said it, that would be something. There was no order of service, but maybe he could check his work phone. Would that be cheating? Probably. Besides, it would have been a tricky enough maneuver to get away with in a church full of mourners, but it was nearly impossible when the only other person there apart from him was the vicar. Ordinarily, the funeral director would have been there as well, but he had e-mailed earlier to say he was too ill to make it.
Unnervingly, the vicar, who was only a few feet away from Andrew, had barely broken eye contact since he'd started the service. Andrew hadn't dealt with him before. He was boyish and spoke with a nervous tremor that was amplified unforgivingly by the echoey church. Andrew couldn't tell if this was down to nerves. He tried out a reassuring smile, but it didn't seem to help. Would a thumbs-up be inappropriate? He decided against it.
He looked over at the coffin again. Maybe he was a Jake, though the man had been seventy-eight when he died, and you didn't really get many septuagenarian Jakes. At least not yet. It was going to be strange in fifty years' time when all the nursing homes would be full of Jakes and Waynes, Tinkerbells and Appletisers, with faded tribal tattoos that roughly translated as "Roadworks for next fifty yards" faded on their lower backs.
Jesus, concentrate, he admonished himself. The whole point of his being there was to bear respectful witness to the poor soul departing on their final journey, to provide some company in lieu of any family or friends. Dignity-that was his watchword.
Unfortunately, dignity was something that had been in short supply for the John or James or Jake. According to the coroner's report, he had died on the toilet while reading a book about buzzards. To add insult to injury, Andrew later discovered firsthand that it wasn't even a very good book about buzzards. Admittedly he was no expert, but he wasn't sure the author-who even from the few passages Andrew had read came across as remarkably grumpy-should have dedicated a whole page to badmouthing kestrels. The deceased had folded the corner of this particular page down as a crude placeholder, so perhaps he'd been in agreement. As Andrew had peeled off his latex gloves he'd made a mental note to insult a kestrel-or indeed any member of the falcon family-the next time he saw one, as a tribute of sorts.
Other than a few more bird books, the house was devoid of anything that gave clues to the man's personality. There were no records or films to be found, nor pictures on the walls or photographs on the windowsills. The only idiosyncrasy was the bafflingly large number of Fruit 'n Fibre boxes in the kitchen cupboards. So aside from the fact that he was a keen ornithologist with a top-notch digestive system, it was impossible to guess what sort of person John or James or Jake had been.
Andrew had been as diligent as ever with the property inspection. He'd searched the house (a curious mock-Tudor bungalow that sat defiantly as an incongruous interlude on the terraced street) until he was sure he'd not missed something that suggested the man had any family he was still in touch with. He'd knocked on the neighbors' doors but they'd been either indifferent to or unaware of the man's existence, or the fact it was over.
The vicar segued unsurely into a bit of Jesus-y material, and Andrew knew from experience that the service was coming to a close. He had to remember this person's name, as a point of principle. He really tried his best, even when there was no one else there, to be a model mourner-to be as respectful as if there were hundreds of devastated family members in attendance. He'd even started removing his watch before entering the church because it felt like the deceased's final journey should be exempt from the indifference of a ticking second hand.
The vicar was definitely on the home stretch now. Andrew was just going to have to make a decision.
John, he decided. He was definitely John.
"And while we believe that John-"
"-struggled to some extent in his final years, and sadly departed the world without family or friends by his side, we can take comfort that, with God waiting with open arms, full of love and kindness, this journey shall be the last he makes alone."
Andrew tended not to stick around after the funerals. On the few occasions he had, heÕd ended up having to make awkward conversation with funeral directors or last-minute rubberneckers. It was remarkable how many of the latter you would get, hanging around outside, farting out inane platitudes. Andrew was well practiced at slipping away so as to avoid such encounters, but today heÕd briefly been distracted by a sign on the church noticeboard advertising the troublingly jaunty ÒMidsummer Madness Fete!Ó when he felt someone tapping him on the shoulder with the insistence of an impatient woodpecker. It was the vicar. He looked even younger close up, with his baby-blue eyes and blond curtains parted neatly in the middle, as if his mum might have done it for him.
"Hey, it's Andrew, isn't it? You're from the council, right?"
"That's right," Andrew said.
"No luck finding any family then?"
Andrew shook his head.
"Shame, that. Real shame."
The vicar seemed agitated, as if he were holding on to a secret that he desperately wanted to impart.
"Can I ask you something?" he said.
"Yes," Andrew said, quickly deciding on an excuse for why he couldn't attend "Midsummer Madness!"
"How did you find that?" the vicar said.
"Do you mean . . . the funeral?" Andrew said, pulling at a bit of loose thread on his coat.
"Yeah. Well, more specifically my part in it all. Because, full disclosure, it was my first. I was quite relieved to be starting with this one, to be honest, because there wasn't anybody here so it sort of felt like a bit of a practice run. Hopefully now I'm fully prepared for when there's a proper one with a church full of friends and family, not just a guy from the council. No offense," he added, putting a hand on Andrew's arm. Andrew did his best not to recoil. He hated it when people did that. He wished he had some sort of squidlike defense that meant he could shoot ink into their eyes.
"So yeah," the vicar said. "How'd you think I did?"
What do you want me to say? Andrew thought. Well, you didn't knock the coffin over or accidentally call the deceased "Mr. Hitler," so ten out of ten I'd say.
"You did very well," he said.
"Ah, great, thanks, mate," the vicar said, looking at him with renewed intensity. "I really appreciate that."
He held out his hand. Andrew shook it and went to let go, but the vicar carried on.
"Anyway, I better be off," Andrew said.
"Yes, yes of course," said the vicar, finally letting go.
Andrew started off down the path, breathing a sigh of relief at escaping without further interrogation.
"See you soon I hope," the vicar called after him.
- Chapter 2 -
The funerals had been given various prefixes over the years-"public health," "contract," "welfare," "Section 46"-but none of the attempted rebrands would ever replace the original. When Andrew had come across the expression "pauper's funeral" he'd found it quite evocative; romantic, even, in a Dickensian sort of way. It made him think of someone a hundred and fifty years ago in a remote village-all mud and clucking chickens-succumbing to a spectacular case of syphilis, dying at the fine old age of twenty-seven and being bundled merrily into a pit to regenerate the land. In practice, what he experienced was depressingly clinical. The funerals were now a legal obligation for councils across the UK, designed for those who'd slipped through the cracks-their death perhaps only noticed because of the smell of their body decomposing, or an unpaid bill. (It had been on several occasions now where Andrew had found that the deceased had enough money in a bank account for direct debits to cover utility bills for months after their death, meaning the house was kept warm enough to speed up their body's decomposition. After the fifth harrowing instance of this, he'd considered mentioning it in the "Any other comments" section on his annual job satisfaction survey. In the end he went with asking if they could have another kettle in the shared kitchen.)
Another phrase he had become well acquainted with was "The Nine O'Clock Trot." His boss, Cameron, had explained its origin to him while violently piercing the film on a microwavable biryani. "If you die alone"-stab, stab, stab-"you're most likely buried alone too"-stab, stab, stab-"so the church can get the funeral out of the way at nine o'clock, safe in the knowledge that every train could be canceled"-stab-"every motorway gridlocked"-stab-"and it wouldn't make a difference." A final stab. "Because nobody's on their way."
In the previous year Andrew had arranged twenty-five of these funerals (his highest annual total yet). He'd attended all of them, too, though he wasn't technically required to do so. It was, he told himself, a small but meaningful gesture for someone to be there who wasn't legally obligated. But increasingly he found himself watching the simple, unvarnished coffins being lowered into the ground in a specially designated yet unmarked plot, knowing they would be uncovered three or four more times as other coffins were fitted in like a macabre game of Tetris, and think that his presence counted for nothing.
As Andrew sat on the bus to the office, he inspected his tie and shoes, both of which had seen better days. There was a persistent stain on his tie, origin unknown, that wouldnÕt budge. His shoes were well polished but starting to look worn. Too many nicks from churchyard gravel, too many times the leather had strained where heÕd curled his toes at a vicarÕs verbal stumble. He really should replace both, come payday.
Now that the funeral was over, he took a moment to mentally file away John (surname Sturrock, he discovered, having turned on his phone). As ever, he tried to resist the temptation to obsess over how John had ended up in such a desperate position. Was there really no niece or godson he was on Christmas-card terms with? Or an old school friend who called, even just on his birthday? But it was a slippery slope. He had to stay as objective as possible, for his own sake, if only to be mentally strong enough to deal with the next poor person who ended up like this. The bus stopped at a red light. By the time it went green Andrew had made himself say a final good-bye.
He arrived at the office and returned Cameron's enthusiastic wave with a more muted acknowledgment of his own. As he slumped into his well-weathered seat, which had molded itself to his form over the years, he let out a now sadly familiar grunt. He'd thought having only just turned forty-two he'd have a few more years before he began accompanying minor physical tasks by making odd noises, but it seemed to be the universe's gentle way of telling him that he was now officially heading toward middle age. He only imagined before too long he'd wake up and immediately begin his day bemoaning how easy school exams were these days and bulk-buying cream chinos.
He waited for his computer to boot up and watched out of the corner of his eye as his colleague Keith demolished a hunk of chocolate cake and methodically sucked smears of icing from his stubby little fingers.
"Good one, was it?" Keith said, not taking his eyes off his screen, which Andrew knew was most likely showing a gallery of actresses who'd had the temerity to age, or something small and furry on a skateboard.
"It was okay," Andrew said.
"Any rubberneckers?" came a voice from behind him.
Andrew flinched. He hadn't seen Meredith take her seat.
"No," he said, not bothering to turn around. "Just me and the vicar. It was his very first funeral, apparently."
"Bloody hell, what a way to pop your cherry," Meredith said.
"Better that than a room full of weepers, to be fair," Keith said, with one final suck of his little finger. "You'd be shitting piss, wouldn't you?"
The office phone rang and the three of them sat there not answering it. Andrew was about to bite but Keith's frustration got the better of him first.
"Hello, Death Administration. Yep. Sure. Yep. Right."
Andrew reached for his earphones and pulled up his Ella Fitzgerald playlist (he had only very recently discovered Spotify, much to Keith's delight, who'd spent a month afterward calling Andrew "Granddad"). He felt like starting with a classic-something reassuring. He decided on "Summertime." But he was only three bars in before he looked up to see Keith standing in front of him, belly flab poking through a gap between shirt buttons.
"Helloooo. Anybody there?"
Andrew removed his earphones.
"That was the coroner. We've got a fresh one. Well, not a fresh body obviously-they reckon he'd been dead a good few weeks. No obvious next of kin and the neighbors never spoke to him. Body's been moved so they want a property inspection a-sap."
Keith picked at a scab on his elbow. "Tomorrow all right for you?"
Andrew checked his diary.
"I can do first thing."
"Blimey, you're keen," Keith said, waddling back to his desk. And you're a slice of ham that's been left out in the sun, Andrew thought. He went to put his earphones back in, but at that moment Cameron emerged from his office and clapped his hands together to get their attention.
"Team meeting, chaps," he announced. "And yes, yes, don't you worry-the current Mrs. Cameron has provided cake, as per. Shall we hit the break-out space?"
The three of them responded with the enthusiasm a chicken might if it were asked to wear a prosciutto bikini and run into a fox's den. The "break-out space" consisted of a knee-high table flanked by two sofas that smelled unaccountably of sulfur. Cameron had floated the idea of adding beanbags, but this had been ignored, as were his suggestions of desk-swap Tuesdays, a negativity jar ("It's a swear jar but for negativity!") and a team park run. ("I'm busy," Keith had yawned. "But I haven't told you which day it's on," Cameron said, his smile faltering like a flame in a draft.) Undeterred by their complete lack of enthusiasm, Cameron's most recent suggestion had been a suggestion box. This, too, had been ignored.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Writing: 4.5/5 Plot: 4/5 Characters: 5/5 Loved this book! Andrew Smith works in Death Administration. His unenviable (and often malodorous) job: property inspections of the recently deceased to find funds or friends to help the local council escape paying for the obligatory “Public Health Funeral.” He feels compassion for those dying in such lonely ways — possibly because he is heading that way himself. His own social connections consist of a distant sister, an anonymous group of online train enthusiasts, and a very comforting, but completely imaginary, wife and children. When he has a chance to make a real friend, he struggles with how to extricate himself from this long-lived and thoroughly detailed fabrication. This is a feel-good book about friendship, connection, and how people get lost … and found again. Effortlessly great writing (at least it appears effortless). I particularly enjoyed the ambient social commentary and the interactions between good characters. One of the few books compared to Eleanor Oliphant that actually deserves the comparison. A few writing samples: “He’d thought having only just turned forty-two he’d have a few more years before he began accompanying minor physical tasks by making odd noises, but it seemed to be the universe’s gentle way of telling him that he was now officially heading toward middle age.” “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 — but he suddenly felt a rather strong urge not to disappoint Peggy.” “When it came to model trains, one of the most satisfying simple things Andrew had learned was that the more you ran a locomotive, the better it performed. With repeated use, an engine starts to glide around the track, seeming to grow in efficiency with every circuit. When it came to making connections with people, however, he was less of a smoothly running locomotive and more a rail replacement bus rusting in a rest stop.” “After said shunt finally materialized, Andrew and Peggy hauled their bags off the train along with a few hundred other passengers traveling back that Saturday whose phasers were all set to “grumble,” only to be elevated to “strongly worded letter” when they were told it would be forty minutes before a replacement train could get there.” “His shoes were well-polished but starting to look worn. Too many nicks from churchyard gravel, too many times the leather had strained where he’d curled his toes at a vicar’s verbal stumble.”
How Not To Die Alone made me think about some things that I would rather not, and often made me laugh out loud while doing so. It has the unique combination of wrenchingly sad and humorous, one of those stories that will stay with me long after having read it. Andrew is a quirky, sensitive character that works for the government locating next of kin for people who have died alone. This must be an awful job, but he approachs each case with respect, even going to the funerals of those that have no one. Andrew is also a lonely person, awkward and as it is revealed, grief stricken, but a genuinely nice guy. I was hoping throughout the book that he would find a way to not die alone. I both laughed and cried. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this arc.
Enjoyable! Thank you to Penguin Group and NetGalley for an e-ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Andrew is lonely. He works in a job where he is searching for the next of kin for people who have died, and seem to not have any family. He attends the funerals so the people don't "die alone". He wants to fit in at work so he concocts a story about having a family, when in truth, he lives alone and has for some time. You get the feeling there is a story around that, which there is, and it comes in twist that you don't really see coming. Peggy is a new employee, fun loving but brings along a husband who doesn't treat her very well, and 2 kids. She makes Andrew feel like he is breathing new air, but with her "baggage", can he really truly enjoy life? This was an entertaining story (albeit sad at times), and I enjoyed reading it. Looking forward to more works from this author!
How Not to Die Alone is a book about a man whose vocation in life is to investigate and find the next-of-kin when lone citizens have died. Most of these cases are described as a body, gone undiscovered for days/weeks, and likely have no one to attend their funeral. This is where Andrew comes in as a representative of the Public Health bureau. Meanwhile, Andrew, has engulfed himself in a tiny tale that has consumed his reality. His boss thinks that he's married with a wife and kids...but alas....Andrew lives alone. Very alone. This book is being compared to the book Eleanor Oliphant is Completely fine, and I can understand why. Both main characters are living in a fully engulfed illusion, both characters have are socially awkward and have a social circle of exactly zero members, and both characters are moving along their life with an uncertain destination ahead. I found this book to be a rather tedious read, and I did not really engage with the character until after I had read over 50% of the book. Once Andrew's true life scenario began to become complicated with a new coworker and a disgruntled brother-in-law, the conflicts began to arise and the book really began to draw me in. Thank you to NetGalley and the G.P. Putman's Sons publishing for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Took a while to get what author’s point was, but emotional connection was good.
Well written and compelling tale. I may be a bit biased as I'm obsessed with all things London/UK due to an upcoming trip there for the first time. But I do feel regardless of locale, this is a sweet treat for fans of Eleanor Oliphant. I will most likely be buying a copy or two to share with friends. I received this copy from Net Galley in return for an honest review.
How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper is a very highly recommended quirky, delightful, funny, heartbreaking, and hopeful debut novel. Yeah, ALL the emotions are here in this debut novel that had me entrenched and invested from beginning to end. Andrew, 42, has a public health job at the Death Administration department that few people could do, let alone with the compassion Andrew shows. He enters the homes of deceased individuals who died alone and searches for some evidence of a next of kin or assets that will provide the ability to cover the burial costs. He also attends the funeral services, often as the only mourner present. Co-workers think he goes home each night to a loving wife and two children, but that is not the case. When applying for the job years earlier a misunderstanding led to the lie and he has found it easier to perpetuate it. His only friends are members of a private group on an online model train forum. His only relative is an older sister who he only talks to on the phone a few times a year. When Peggy joins the department and Andrew and Peggy begin to form a friendship and connection. A relationship would be impossible. Peggy is in a troubled marriage, but she believes Andrew also is married. Then, when his boss decides that each member of the team will now host a monthly dinner at their home, Andrew is in a tough position. If he confesses and tells the truth now, he could lose everything, but if doesn't he could lose any chance of happiness. The characters are all well-developed, flawed, and realistic. Andrew is a kind, awkward, and lonely man, who is still suffering from past traumas that the reader will not know all the details of until the end - and then everything in the story falls into place. In the narrative, most of his problems all seem to be self-inflicted, serving to keep Andrew safe, but lonely. Peggy is actually good for Andrew, making him open himself up to new experiences. If Andrew can take a risk, he may be able to make some personal connections, and find a chance at happiness. The writing is excellent and the narrative is well-paced. Roper does an incredible job introducing new information and developing the plot and characters slowly to the reader, until a big final reveal at the end. How Not to Die Alone is much funnier and more poignant than any description could do justice to. In spite of the fact that Peggy is married, you will be rooting for these two. I didn't jump up to the five stars until the end, although I also talked back about the very final denouement in regards to his job. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.
If you asked his co-workers, forty-something Andrew has the perfect life. He’s happily married to a smart and loving woman, lives in a gorgeous home, father to a son and daughter...only problem is it’s all a complete lie. Andrew couldn't be more alone if he tried. He didn’t mean for the lie to spin so far out of control, he also did nothing to correct it either. Andrew and his small collection of office mates work in a depressing department of the council. Daily he is tasked with visiting the homes of the newly deceased who have left this earth alone. It’s Andrew’s job to go through their belongings to search for possible next of kin. If none is found, he must arrange for their meager burials. Andrew is fine with his lonesome existence, happy to work on his trains while listening to Ella Fitzgerald, until the day Peggy gets hired. Now Andrew must decide whether or not to step out of this fantasy life he has so comfortably lived in for years or miss out on the possibility of actually creating something real. Richard Roper has written a quick and quirky read with real, out of the box characters in “How Not to Die Alone”. This debut novel is not one to be missed.
Touted as: "A darkly funny and life-affirming debut novel for readers of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine..." [the male version], I totally agree. Andrew is a social misfit caught in his own web of lies. He has invented a wife and two children. Although some readers criticized this book for its defying logic, I just didn't care. Many times I found myself chuckling over descriptions. I loved the humor in this novel especially as Andrew's job working for the council, searching for next of kin for those who die alone was sad. He entered their homes [often after a body had been there for weeks as the deceased had died alone] where a solitary existence and usually stench and a mess prevailed [though occasionally, an organized home]. His is a lonely existence. He has his work, his model trains [and its online forum--his only real social network], and devotion to Ella Fitzgerald. And his imaginary familty for which he is always fabricating a story for his workmates. Some of my favorite descriptions: "He wished he had some sort of squidlike defense that meant he could shoot ink into their eyes." "Sitting on the train to work (wedged into the armrest by a man whose legs were spread so far apart Andrew could only assume he was performing some sort of interpretive dance about what a great guy he was)..." "...brandishing a heart attack between two slices of bread." re going to the bathroom--"...until Keith had started eating burritos for lunch, and now Andrew was in dire need of a miner's canary to send into each cubicle before going in." "...stinging lemon aftershave the barber had splashed unbidden on his cheeks, which made him smell like a sophisticated dessert." and for a dinner offering "...several courses, all of them seemingly varieties on the theme of hedge cuttings..." I could go on and on. My only real criticism was the storyline of Andrew and his sister, Sally. Though pivotal towards the end of the book, this just did not resonate and was a bit of a disconnect. Still, I'd recommend though not for everyone.
This novel will inevitably be compared to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FIne. And I get it.....they both feature quirky protagonists, socially awkward situations and a painfully lonely existence. I very much enjoyed the book, but I loved Eleanor and am still missing her. I found How Not to Die Alone to be a charming, hopeful story. Andrew has an unusual job: When someone dies alone, he goes into their homes to search for clues to track down family and friends or evidence of funds....to pay for their funeral. Whew! Yes, that could be a depressing set-up. But his author treats it with dark humor and poignancy. Andrew is a mess. Through an initial misunderstanding during his job interview he let his boss believe he has a wife and two children and lives in a grand home. Over his years of employment he hasn't been able to tell the truth. He lives alone in a dingy one bedroom apartment surrounded by model trains. His only friends are fellow train enthusiasts he interacts with via an online forum. Then Peggy comes to work at the office and he begins to have feelings for her....but she thinks he is happily married with two adoring children. On one level the story is about all the slapstick scenarios set up by Andrew's mythical family Keeping this ruse going is taking it toll on Andrew...and he wasn't in a good place to start. On a deeper level I found this to be a portrait of grief and the effects of trauma on an individual. Throughout the novel Andrew has terrible flashbacks causing him extreme emotional distress. The author unravels Andrew's personal history very slowly over the course of the novel. As I started to realize the cause of Andrew's anxiety and the depth of his despair, my heart broke. Can you imagine being so lonely, you perpetuate the myth of a family, because you have become emotionally invested in the welfare of your imaginary family? And at the same time, Andrew knew keeping the farce going was absurd. I'm an empathetic person, I feel things deeply, even the plight of fictional characters. A different personality may find Andrew annoying or ridiculous. If you enjoyed Eleanor, I'd like you to meet Andrew. If you didn't enjoy Eleanor, I'd still love for you to meet Andrew :)
I started reading How Not to Die Alone on 5/8/2019 and finished it on 5/10/2019. This story being particularly depressing, but I have to admit that I enjoyed reading it. It’s different. I have never thought about those people who live alone and die alone before. I’m aware of people who live through life that either don’t get married or don’t have children and outlived their spouses but I always thought they may have cousins or live in nursing homes with caretakers. Andrew’s job is interesting, though it’s one job I can never ever perform. I like being educated about this area of death and it opens my eyes to know that any job is possible and death can go undiscovered for so long if one lead such a lonely life. This book is told in the third person point of view following Andrew, 42, an employee at the Death Administration department of public health. His job is to find families (next of kin) and to inspect the houses of those who dies alone to find assets to cover their own funeral costs. Andrew’s co-workers think that he has a lawyer wife and two kids when he actually comes home from work to an empty house. A mistake made during an interview 5 years ago became a full blown lie. Andrew is a loner who likes to play with model trains and his only best friends are three other model trains enthusiasts on the internet forum. His childhood was particularly depressing where his dad died when he was 3, his mom became withdrawn, his older sister bullied and abandoned him, and finally a secret that left him withdrawn into himself. No one had ever come close to being friends with Andrew until a new employee Peggy joined his department. She shadow him and go with him to inspect houses and attend funerals. They got along well and he even comes out of his shell for her, doing something he normally wouldn’t do like drinking beer on Wednesday, shopping for new clothes, etc. How Not to Die Alone is very well written and offer a unique topic to think about. Andrew’s life is a bit depressing as well as the topic of the story. He grows up inside a bubble of comfort where he doesn’t socialize and anything outside of his comfort zone scares him. His childhood is a sad one and it explains why his adulthood is no better. I feel so happy when he finally made a friend and he started to develop more feelings than just his mundane days. There were some suspense moments that I thought he would give in to being bullied by his brother-in-law. The people he works with are something else. I like Peggy and her humor. I like the happy ending. I highly recommend everyone to read this book! Pro: lonely deaths, odd job, comfort zones, friendship, cover, humor Con: none I rate it 5 stars! ***Disclaimer: I won a copy this book via Goodreads giveaway. Please be assured that my opinions are honest. xoxo, Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com for more details
Andrew is 42, single, lives alone in an apartment in London, and works for the council. He has the unusual task of dealing with the aftermath of people who die alone. Job details include going to the residence armed with a mask doused liberally with expensive cologne to mask the uniquely foul smell of death. Sometimes the dwelling is extremely neat, and other times there is a huge mess to clean up, flies swirling around. He must pore through drawers and paperwork to look for a life insurance policy, cash (often times found under a mattress), next of kin, etc. The goal is to find a means of recovering funeral costs for the deceased. If need be, valuable items in the residence can be sold. Not that it is even required, but Andrew always attends the funeral church service. More often than not, Andrew and the vicar are the only people paying respects to the deceased. Andrew has also been known to shed a tear or two at the pathetic situation. Andrew created problems for himself when he was first interviewed for the job by his boss Cameron. Andrew's mind was wandering at one point during the interview when Cameron asked a personal question. Faking that he hadn't heard the question, Andrew wound up lying that he was married with two children. Once you start telling a lie it has a way of snowballing into a bigger lie. Eventually, Cameron encourages the staff to take turns at each other's houses getting together for dinner. Andrew is quite stressed at the thought of what he will do when it's his turn to host. He's lied so many times to his co-workers about his make believe wife Diane and their two children that there's no turning back. Another conflict in the story is his attraction to new employee Peggy who he takes along on house searches to show her the ropes. Peggy has an easy, friendly and funny way about her that is very appealing to Andrew. In addition, Peggy has two young daughters, but is married to an alcoholic. Andrew loves to listen to Ella Fitzgerald albums and is an avid train set enthusiast. He participates in a chat forum (using a screen name) on the internet for train set hobbyists. When he's upset or lonely, he is calmed by turning on his train track, listening to Ella and chatting on the train forum thread. He suffers from PTSD involving an abusive sister Sally, and reacts horribly whenever he hears the song "Blue Moon" sung by Ella Fitzgerald. It will cause him to run out of a record store, lie face down in bed and scream, etc. In summation, the character of Andrew reminds me a bit of Eleanor Oliphant in that he is a victim of sibling abuse, lives with resultant mental problems, and maintains a solitary life with simplicity. He's worried about what people will think if he lets them get too close. This wasn't the greatest book I've ever read or the worst either. It was a decent read. Thank you to Penguin Publishing Group for providing an advance reader copy via Edelweiss.
Andrew is a 42-year-old man who is a bachelor. He works for the Death Administration Council. What that basically means is that when a person dies without anyone, Andrew must check out if there are any family, any cash or bank accounts to pay for the funeral, and stay until the body is sent to the morgue. But Andrew is a good soul, albeit pathetic, who even goes to the funeral of the deceased. The intriguing part is that as this story begins, he lies through his teeth to his coworkers, saying that he is married, has two children and works in a posh home in an upper-class neighborhood. One could understand that but he makes it worse by adding to the story frequently to the point where his peers are dying to meet his family and visit his phenomenal home. The saving grace for a very difficult first few chapters is that Andrew has a ripping, great sense of humor in spite of his pathetic lies. Two occasions mark the turning point for Andrew. One is a new co-worker, Peggy, who is married with two daughters. At first, he is intent on helping her to adjust to her new job which is the same as his job. Little by little, with some innocent but increasingly revealing conversations, he finds himself realizing he’s falling in love with her. She has a bad marriage that’s little by little falling apart and he discovers he really cares what happens to her. At the same time, he has a strange relationship with his own family, especially his sister who wants him to face his past. Sally and Andrew had a close but fraught relationship and she blames him for the fact they have grown apart. A tragedy happens and Sally’s ex-boyfriend is convinced Andrew is responsible because Sally worried so much about him. What the boyfriend wants is a wake-up call for Andrew. The plot evolves and doesn’t quite go where everyone expects, but it can be said that Andrew is a new person as a result of the experiences he has with Peggy and Sally. Hang in reader because this is a story that can’t be quickly forgotten and therein lies its redemptive qualities for both the characters in the story and the reader who is made to question and think about relationships and people. Interesting, annoying but redeemable contemporary fiction!