How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper
Penguin Random House: 5/22/19
eBook review copy; 336 pages
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.
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.