Book Review: How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

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Publish Date: May 28, 2019

“Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.” Martin Luther

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Andrew works in 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. 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.

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.

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One thing that many of us have in common is not wanting to end up alone. The thought of ending up alone is a bothersome feeling. There’s even a Japanese term for this called kodokushi which literally translates to “lonely death”; it refers to a Japanese phenomenon of people dying alone and remaining undiscovered for a long period of time. There are quizzes out there to assess on how likely you’ll die alone, like this one. It’s just for fun, but it makes us wonder about what happens if we do end up alone at the end of our life.

Andrew has a very unique job working for the UK public health council’s death administration department. He takes care of deceased people’s affairs when kodokushi happens. He tries to locate the next of kin, and sometimes he organizes the funeral. It takes a special kind of person to do this. The job also gives Andrew insight into what happens when people die alone, and he realizes that he doesn’t want to do that.

The book is an inside peek into the business of life after death, and a story about loneliness, mistakes, choices, and change. It’s sprinkled with charming British humor, culture, and I adored it. It’s beautifully written and hilarious.

Andrew is unhappy with his current situation, but to change it, he has to come clean about lies that he’s told for years. These lies don’t hurt anybody but they have affected him deeply, and sheds light on his yearning for companionship and family. Confessing to the lies takes a lot courage, and it exposes him to rejection and even more social isolation than he feels now. I rooted for Andrew to overcome his fear, share his truth, and be open about his life.

This book is about honesty, regrets, lies, isolation, courage, grief, heartbreak, introspection, family, and relationships. It makes me realize that living a lie causes a lot of stress that impacts your body and your mind, no matter what you’re lying about. The story is poignant yet funny, and touches on mortality.

This book is written in the same style as Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (my review here), and I adored it. If you like that book, you’ll love this one too.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars 4 Stars

Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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