Title: The Dead Wife’s Handbook
Author: Hannah Beckerman
Genre: General Fiction
Summary (from Goodreads)
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.
Remember that episode of Friends where Rachel and Joey do a book swap, and Joey has to put his book in the freezer because he’s getting so emotional about it?
I found it really hard to get through the first part of this book. Not because it was bad – it really wasn’t. It was just so, so, sooooo sad. Rachel’s raw grief, Max’s bumbling through life trying to deal with having a young daughter and a dead wife – there were so many moments that had me choking up and wanting to hug everyone I love.
I felt everything that all the characters went through. The emotions were so well realised – complex, conflicting, confusing and utterly believable. There wasn’t a single character I couldn’t get behind and they often were at odds with each other. The fallout of Rachel’s death was the central theme of the plot, and as each of the characters in her life struggles to come to terms with their loss, and struggles to come to terms with how everyone else is coming to terms with it, you really get to see the many facets of grief.
As Rachel progresses through the stages of grief (which the parts of the novel are named after) it does become easier going. That, or I acclimatised to the trauma of reading it. I raced through the second half of novel, and it did build to a genuinely uplifting, bitter sweet sort of ending.
I would definitely recommend this to anyone. Come at it prepared with tissues, and don’t read on public transport unless you have a high tolerance for the embarrassment of crying in public, but read it. Definitely, definitely read it, because it’s beautiful. Heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.