Review: How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

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☆☆➹⁀☆ 4 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆


What It’s About:

Andrew’s day-to-day is a little grim, searching for next of kin for those who die alone. Thankfully, he has a loving family waiting for him when he gets home, to help wash the day’s cares away. At least, that’s what his coworkers believe.

Andrew didn’t mean for the misunderstanding to happen, yet he’s become trapped in his own white lie. The fantasy of his wife and two kids has become a pleasant escape from his lonely one bedroom with only his Ella Fitzgerald records for company. But when new employee Peggy breezes into his life like a breath of fresh air, Andrew is shaken out of his routine. She doesn’t notice the wall he’s been safely hiding behind and their friendship promises to break it down.

Andrew must choose: Does he tell the truth and start really living his life, but risk losing his friendship with Peggy? Or will he stay safe and alone, behind the façade? How Not to Die Alone is about the importance of taking a chance in those moments when we have the most to lose. Sharp and funny, warm and real, it’s the kind of big-hearted story we all need.

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My Thoughts: 

The blinds on Andrew’s cloistered, weird life are thrown wide open when his new co-worker, Peggy, is assigned to shadow him. In between learning of Andrew’s odd, small life, his dysfunctional upbringing, and his sibling relationship, details of the lonely deaths he is assigned to investigate are smattered through the story.  Andrew is thoughtful of and, at times, compassionate toward his cases whose passing is unnoticed by humankind, but it isn’t until Peggy enters and his sister, Sally, leaves his life that he begins to worry about dying alone.

Richard Roper addresses family relationships, loneliness and love in his debut novel, How Not to Die Alone. I am not sure I got what I expected when I chose to read this novel, but I did get a good book. It is the sort of book that slowly stirs one’s emotions. Interestingly the story is told in a third-person narrative, and surprisingly, it fit well with the story layout. Mr. Roper’s descriptive writing is lovely and evocative.

The book is likened to Eleanor Oliphant is Perfectly Fine, and in terms of the plot premise, it is a little too similar to the previously published book. However, aside from the premise, How Not to Die Alone—from past tragedies to resolution—are unique and original. I did find How Not to Die Alone has less quirk than ‘Eleanor’, but it is more poignant. It has its moments of humor sprinkled through the rather sad story. Between Andrew’s lonely existence and his sad job (investigating homes of he dead for signs of living relatives/friends), How Not to Die Alone is a comedy noir.

“There was nobody for him to share the story with. No one to help him laugh his way through it. Loneliness, however, was ever vigilant, always there to slow-clap his every stumble.”

Andrew’s odd story is slowly revealed, and the disturbing findings on the job, his bizarre co-workers, and his delightful new apprentice add some interesting spice to it. The stiff, quarterly phone calls from his sister create a bit of dread in terms of Andrew’s mental health or what might have happened in their collective past. The tension mounts as Andrew’s obsession with his hobby and his aversion to the song Blue Moon is revisited again and again.

There is a moment of transgression that some might call marital cheating, but it is more a response to a highly emotional moment and an acknowledgement that Peggy and Andrew are unhappy with their {respective} status quo. That relatively chaste transgression is a fulcrum in both their lives.

I loved Andrew’s thoughtfulness when it came to his job. It showed him to be a sensitive soul, and it really made him a likable character. Peggy is a breath of fresh air; she has no end of personal issues, but she cheerily approaches work with aplomb. The secondary characters are a motely crew; between Cameron the bizarre, uninspiring department leader and Meredith and Keith the slacker co-workers, Andrew and Peggy could be in the sitcom—The Office. In his youth, Andrew’s sister, Sally bullied him, and in her absence, her husband, Gabe, continues the effort to make Andrew miserable. Beyond these secondary characters, each death Peggy and/or Andrew investigate presents a dismal tertiary character who becomes another lesson in dying alone. While Peggy’s family serves to remind Andrew of what he is missing in life.

How Not to Die Alone is definitely a rally cry for getting offline and connecting with people, for forgiving family members’ imperfections, and for creating a reason to hope.



© Copyright 2019 Book Junkie Reviews. All rights reserved.

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