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Government drone by day and book lover and geek girl by night!

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What We Leave Behind

Now Not to Die Alone - Richard Roper

Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.

So, this was a thought provoking and sobering at times read.  I did laugh a few times, but a few times while finishing I thought to myself will I die alone and if I do, will anyone be left after to miss me and come round to check in on me.


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My family does a very good job of staying in touch with each other. We do Polos (videos) everyday almost to each other. We also text and sent pictures. When I go home to visit my family I stop in on older relatives who are content for me to sit and watch them watch television (mostly Lifetime). It just never occurred to me to not see them and check in on them.


This book shows us another side of those people who either lost loved ones, or didn't have any with them in the end. I ended up loving Andrew for just making sure that someone besides the local vicar was there to see them off. Roper does a great job with slowly revealing Andrew's story. You will have a lot of sympathy for him. And I also love that he didn't have Andrew just have a happily ever after romance wise. Honestly, I would have been happier without the romance. Between that and the flow of the book being off here and there, I ended up giving this book four stars. 


"How Not to Die Alone" follows Andrew. Andrew works for public works and specifically gets involved when someone is found dead and it appears there are no next of kin to be found. Andrew seems to have a routine down pat. He goes to work, investigates a house, goes to a funeral if planned, comes home and talks in a chatroom with other model train enthusiasts, and talks to himself as he eats. We know he has a sister that he talks to once a quarter, and other than that he is trudging through his days. Until the day it comes about that Andrew who told a lie (he is happily married to a woman named Diane and they have two kids) which may get found out. With a new coworker named Peggy starting to push Andrew out of his rut, he is starting to realize why and how his life got so off unbalanced.


I really enjoyed the character of Andrew. You at first may find him weird. Readers are told pretty much up front how he came to lie about being married and you may find yourself not feeling sympathetic to him. I maybe had my eyebrows raised through that part of the book because I just thought how odd it was. However, it takes almost until the end of the book for Roper to reveal why Andrew lied and specifically what happened to him. You then realize why Andrew has become so focused on making sure that the deceased are not left alone at their funerals. That someone should be there to mark them leaving the world. You find out why he loves Ella Fitzgerald so much, but why one song causes him almost physical pain. 


Now onto the slightly negative. I didn't really care for the whole romance he had going on in his head with regards to Peggy. I liked how Roper developed their relationship from coworkers, to friends, to amateur sleuths when tracking down leads on possible kin to deceased men and women. However, Peggy has her own marriage and problems to deal with and I hard cringed at Roper possibly throwing the character development of both characters out the window to slap a bow on things. I was so happy to see I was wrong with that, no spoilers, but I loved how well done this was and how it was taken care of by Roper.


The other characters in this book, Andrew's sister (Sally), Sally's shitty boyfriend (Carl), and the frightful coworkers (Keith and Meredith) were written very well. We get a slow reveal about Sally and Andrew's relationship and I felt so sad about the whole thing. No spoilers, but when you read about how they were raised, what happens after, and why they seem so apart from each other's lives it all makes sense. 


I already mentioned Peggy above, but she was written so well. Peggy has her own problems, but she does want to help Andrew when she realizes what is going on with him. 


The writing was very good. I would also caution reading this while eating or anything. Some of the descriptions of the homes that Andrew and Peggy walk into turned my stomach a bit. FYI, I am a very clean person, I promptly went and cleaned my bathrooms after finishing this book. There is some dialogue that made me laugh here and there, but I loved how Roper shows Andrew's awkwardness and you are able to get the sense that he wants to make connections, but is out of practice. 


The flow as I said was not consistent throughout. I think when Roper reveals things about Andrew's past it kind of brings the book to a halt. The passages concerning Sally, Andrew's mother, and what happened to Andrew after going to university were great, and I definitely don't think it should have been told in a chronological way. It just caused the book to grind slightly at times. And the book then moving back to the present didn't work for me all the time since a few times since I would get focused on what Roper revealed and wanted to go back and get more details on that. 

The setting of this book takes place in London. It just feels like a London where the lights have gone out a bit. Though there is humor in the book here and there, it's a pretty grim subject matter at times. This book did make me curious about whether in the U.S. if we have a similar office going around taking care of unaccompanied deaths and ensuring the deceased are given a funeral and buried. 

The ending though is a breath of fresh air. It will definitely warm your heart. 


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