Review: 'The Dead Wife's Handbook' by Hannah Beckerman (2014)
'Today is my death anniversary. A year ago today I was still alive.'
Rachel, Max and their daughter Ellie had the perfect life - until the night Rachel's heart stopped beating.
Now Max and Ellie are doing their best to adapt to life without Rachel, and just as her family can't forget her, Rachel can't quite let go of them either. Caught in a place between worlds, Rachel watches helplessly as she begins to fade from their lives. And when Max is persuaded by family and friends to start dating again, Rachel starts to understand that dying was just the beginning of her problems.
As Rachel grieves for the life she's lost and the life she'll never lead, she learns that sometimes the thing that breaks your heart might be the very thing you hope for.
‘The Dead Wife’s Handbook’ was one of those books everyone seemed to be talking about prior to its release on the 13th of February. I have to admit, I was straight away intrigued by the title and the blurb of the novel and was really excited when I was lucky enough to receive a review copy before the official release date (thanks so much, Hannah!). As an avid chick lit reader with a clear preference for happy endings, I was curious to discover what I would eventually think of this particular read because the topic of death and loss is something I try to avoid, if I’m completely honest. However, it is of course a part of life you cannot ignore, no matter how hard you might try, and I was interested to see what Hannah Beckerman had made of it and whether this book would live up to the hype that had been created around it during the past few months.
Rachel had it all, until her heart unexpectedly stopped beating and she had no other choice but to leave behind her loving husband Max and beautiful daughter Ellie to fend for themselves. It has now been a year since Rachel passed away, and she is somehow still stuck somewhere between life and a possible afterlife. She is still able to watch occasional fragments of what is going on in the lives of Max and Ellie, but she has no control whatsoever over the things she is allowed to see and there is absolutely no way for her to get involved or show any sign of her presence. Rachel is forced to find a way to deal with the fact that Max might fall in love with someone else and Elsie growing up and overcoming hurdles in her life without her mum by her side. One thing quickly becomes clear: life moves on, it has to, and Rachel will have to find her own way to accept this, whether she wants to or not.
First of all, I’d just like to say: yes, this book definitely lives up to the hype that has surrounded it the past few weeks. From the first chapter I was completely taken in by Rachel’s story; I really felt for her, being able to see everything but all of it being absolutely out of her control, and I couldn’t help but go along on the rollercoaster of emotions of the various stages of grief. Imagine looking down upon your loved ones, being torn up between wanting them to remember you and wanting them to be happy and to go on with their lives. I couldn’t help but shed a few tears while reading this novel, not only because my heart ached for and with Rachel, but also because of Hannah Beckerman’s beautiful and gripping descriptions which made this quite an intense read.
The book has some wonderful characters at its center. Next to Rachel, there’s the handsome and dedicated Max, who is obviously struggling with trying to overcome his grief and deciding when it is time to move on with his life; their daughter Ellie is the cutest thing and I absolutely loved reading about her conversations with Max and how she is dealing with her grief in her own way; and I specifically loved Harriet, Rachel’s best friend, who is struggling with the loss of her closest friend. Overall, ‘The Dead Wife’s Handbook’ is an incredibly moving, thought-provoking and heartbreaking story that will not only stay with you but will also make you think twice about your own life, your loved ones, and possible what if’s. Definitely highly recommended!