Tuesday 26 August 2014

Review ~ The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman.

Title: The Dead Wife's Handbook.
Author: Hannah Beckerman.
Publisher: Penguin.
Genre: Women's Fiction.
Release Date: February 13, 2014.
Source: Bought.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

'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.

Hannah Beckerman gives an unforgettable exploration of love and loss in her first novel, The Dead Wife's Handbook.

The Dead Wife’s Handbook is without a doubt, the most beautifully written novel I have ever read. I read this book a few months ago and simply because of how stunning it was, and how I really couldn’t write anything to do Hannah Beckerman’s writing justice, I never wrote my review. Which led me to my bank holiday re-read of a book I thought I could love no more, and one which massively proved me wrong. I’m not sure whether it’s because I have still been thinking about the characters in this book since the first time I read it, or because seeing my mum pass away six weeks ago has made me connect so much more with the grief and emotions the characters feel in this novel, but second time around, The Dead Wife’s Handbook felt more beautiful and thought-provoking than I could ever have imagined.

That this novel is Hannah Beckerman’s first book is beyond ridiculous. She masters the art of emotional, moving writing here like no author I’ve read. Hannah comes across as an immensely talented author and her originality shone through in The Dead Wife’s Handbook. Rachel is the protagonist in this book, which begins on the first year anniversary of her death. In the afterworld, she has been granted brief moments of access to watch over her husband, Max and her young daughter, Ellie, alongside her family and friends. I think lots of people believe that when they die, they would want their loved ones to live their lives and be happy but for Rachel, having to watch her family try to move on, is extremely painful. I couldn’t help but empathise with her, because of course she wanted Max to be happy, but how difficult must it be to see him dating new people, and bringing a new woman into her daughter’s life?

The book is set into the different stages of Rachel’s grief, from shock, denial, anger and more. I though this simple way of laying out the novel was really effective, and it helps us follow the progression of grief well. The stages of grief felt very real and believable. I found it easy to relate and understand a lot of the feelings in this book, not just Rachel’s but those of Max and Ellie too, along with other family members such as Rachel’s mum. This story is by no means just about Rachel – Max and Ellie are still coming to terms with the loss of the woman they loved more than anything and seeing them try to adjust, and struggling a lot of the time, was what had me reading with a lump in my throat. Because it has to be said that The Dead Wife’s Handbook can’t be read without tears.

Ellie’s character was my absolute favourite. She was a brave little girl, caring and thoughtful. Losing your mum at any age is horrific so losing your mum when you’re six, and can’t really understand why she’s never coming home, is agonising. Hannah’s writing of Ellie’s character blew me away. Ellie’s fragility was really endearing, and all her questions and doubts, especially when Eve was on the scene, were so believable. Though this book is about what Rachel is seeing after death, for me the main theme of this book was love, and Hannah nailed it perfectly. Every emotion in this book, every event which happened and every setback the characters faced, it was all out of love, some unconditional and some just impossible to ignore. The concept of this novel is poignant, but the little touches like a certain memory Max and Ellie share about Rachel, or certain words spoken by several of the characters, gave this book an uplifting feel which Hannah did amazingly well to pull off. The Dead Wife’s Handbook is a life-affirming novel, written in a gorgeous manner about something close to my heart, which makes it a special novel for me and one of my all-time favourites.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

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