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How Not to Die Alone is a recently released novel by Richard Roper. The story focuses on Andrew, a man who works for a government office in London that handles arrangements for those who pass on without any next of kin.
Review: Plot, Pros and Cons
How Not to Die Alone begins with Andrew attending a funeral. As part of his work for the council office, he elects to be present for the funeral services for people who don’t have any friends or family. This isn’t technically part of his job, but he chooses to do so to provide the deceased with a respectful and dignified service.
However, we also learn early on that Andrew is on the path to end up like all the people he helps see off into the beyond. He has very few people in his life: a semi-estranged sister, a few indifferent coworkers, and a couple online friends. He’s stuck living in the same apartment he has for years, listening to the same Ella Fitzgerald records, and maintaining his model trains.
Despite Andrew’s reality, his coworkers think he leads quite a different life. Thanks to a misunderstanding that he was subsequently too embarrassed to correct, Andrew’s boss and coworkers are under the impression he’s married with children and living in a large, lovely home.
Andrew doesn’t seem to mind too much being stuck in this state. That is, until a new co-worker arrives. When Peggy starts to work at the council, Andrew finds himself drawn to her and they become close. With Peggy in the picture, Andrew grows increasingly uncomfortable with the lies he’s been living and feels the urge to break free.
The rest of the book chronicles Andrew’s journey to being honest about himself. It’s not an easy task. We learn about his past, which has been wrought with tragedy, and how that’s gotten him where he is today.
How Not to Die Alone has plenty going for it. It’s a unique story that’s well written with a sympathetic main character.
However, keep in mind that the book is pretty dark. While it does generally utilize dark humor throughout, there’s no getting around the immense amount of death in this book. Andrew is surrounded by death, both personally and professionally.
As long as you’re prepared for a heavy dose of dark humor, you’ll enjoy this book. It’s a unique and engaging read that’ll give your book club plenty to talk about.
Here we have some discussion topics and questions for your book club about How Not to Die Alone. They’re not too specific to make sure not to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn’t read or finished the book yet.
- What was your opinion of Andrew when the book began? Did your opinion of him change as the book progressed?
- Andrew has spent years living a lie. What effect does this have on his life? Do you know anyone who has lived a lie? What was it like?
- Andrew asks Peggy: “Why is it that we find traditions comforting?” What do you think?
- Peggy asserts that people only do “stupid, impulsive things” because of the knowledge that they’ll die one day. She says, “It’s like, in that moment, they’re sticking a middle finger up to death. You’re coming for me, I know you are — but watch this! It’s like a pure burst of living, isn’t it?” What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
- Andrew’s closest friends are those he talks to on his model train message board. What role do they play in his life? Have you ever made any close friends online?
- Discuss the relationship between Andrew and his sister, Sally.
- Andrew has dealt with a significant amount of death, both in his personal life and his professional life. How has this affected him?
- Discuss the importance of Ella Fitzgerald and model trains in Andrew’s life.
- Earlier on in the book, we learn about Andrew: “He knew that he was comforted by how much control he had with this simple little life of his. It was consistent and unspectacular and he had absolutely no desire to jeopardize that.” However, by the end of the book, his life is entirely different. What changes for Andrew? What drives him to take control of his life in a different way?
- The book ends with plenty of possibilities. What do you think happens next?
Overall, How Not to Die Alone is a good option for your book club. While the subject material is on the darker side, it’s an interesting story with compelling characters that offers up plenty of discussion material.
Have you read How Not to Die Alone? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!
Happy reading! Cheers!