I fell utterly in love with all of the characters and I was genuinely sad to say goodbye to them when I finished it. An undiagnosed heart condition suddenly takes Rachel away from her beloved husband Max and six-year-old daughter Ellie. Now inexplicably caught in the afterworld, she is able to watch her family, unable to let go of them as they themselves cannot let go of their own grief.
With a sense of helplessness, she moves through the seven stages of grief and witnesses her husband start dating again and watches her daughter warm to the new woman in their life. Everything is moving on without her, but sometimes the thing that breaks her heart, may actually turn out to be the best thing for everyone…. When I started this book, I did wonder if it was going to work. The reason?
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The strong characterisation and the very real way that grief is depicted therein. You feel her fear, her loneliness and most of all her sense of helplessness that she cannot offer comfort to Max and Ellie, who were her entire world. Imagine watching those you love suffering and not being able to do anything about it? To know that they are suffering because you are gone must be so much worse. My heart truly bled for Max. A wonderful husband and father who has suffered such a shocking, unexpected bereavement. To be a widower at any age is devastating, but to be left alone to raise a young child is doubly devastating.
You could clearly envisage the strong bond that he and Rachel had, to know that they had all these plans together for their life and that they had inexplicably been taken away, was gut-wrenching. Well meaning friends and relatives offer their support but deep down unless someone has experienced a similar bereavement, they cannot know how it feels to lose a spouse. When Max starts to want to live again he then considers how he will be judged; how soon is too soon to begin a new relationship?
I admired Max and his capacity as a father and that for love. He knew he would always love Rachel but also understood that he still had to keep on living, which was where Eve came in. This was a clever device used by the author, as by the time you begin to like Eve as a reader and understand where she is coming from, Rachel herself has, too.
Imagine the compassion it must take for someone to come into a ready made family unit and be thoroughly generous and willing to take on all of their problems and emotions when they themselves still feel a sense of guilt and are grieving for what they have lost; they feel guilt when they are still alive and someone so very special to them has gone. Not only that, she actively encouraged them to talk about Rachel and share in their memories. I think it takes a very special kind of person to do that and I for one, am not sure if I myself would have that kind of strength and selflessness.
I think in an alternate universe, Rachel and Eve could have genuinely been friends. Eve too, had her secrets, which made me feel sympathy for her. She may be outwardly beautiful and seemingly have everything, but deep down she too has suffered. Ellie was my absolute favourite character in the book- such a special, wonderful little girl.
I sometimes find children in fiction to be unnecessarily twee, even irritating, but she was none of those things. We follow along with Rachel, who died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart problem, as she is allowed glimpses into the lives of the people she left behind..
It is a gorgeous heartwarming tale, often bringing a tear to my eye…at the same time being full of a rather hopeful cathartic feel as all concerned come to terms with tragedy. I lost my Father when I was very young not nearly as young as Ellie but far too young none the less so it was easy for me to identify with her and understand what she was going through…and indeed what Max was going through as he tried to help her and himself.
Then I am a mother of children similarly aged to Ellie — the very thought of not being around to see them through their childhood is horrific. Any mother will feel the same and will therefore be able to relate to Rachel, looking down occasionally but being unable to take back what was lost. This novel captures the sense of so many things — love, loss, friendship, sadness, and hope..
A tale of grief told from a unique perspective, beautifully written, heartfelt and impassioned, this one will have you reaching for the tissues.. Most of all this is about love…and how sometimes that means letting go… Highly Recommended. Happy Reading Folks! Nov 09, Sarah Farmer-wright rated it it was ok.
This is the story of the sudden, untimely demise of Rachel from a fatal cardiac arrhythmia, the journey through grief that Rachel and her family must take. This is a unique story with an interesting concept of a beyond the grave "netherworld" from where Rachel is granted "access" to view the family and friends she left behind, and see how they cope with her death and ultimately move on with their lives.
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Nicely based on the seven stages of grief identified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross - shock, denial This is the story of the sudden, untimely demise of Rachel from a fatal cardiac arrhythmia, the journey through grief that Rachel and her family must take. Nicely based on the seven stages of grief identified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross - shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, acceptance - not only from the perspective of Rachel's family but also, interestingly, from Rachel's perspective as well. It's message is a potentially profound one, but, for me, it fell disappointingly flat.
I keenly felt Rachel's abject loneliness being trapped alone in the "whiteness" of the netherworld, and her helplessness bearing witness to new relationships and life she so desperately still wants to be part of, moving on without her; and I liked the overall message of the book - of love being our greatest legacy, but everything in between felt devoid of real feeling and the characters with the exception of Rachel lacked any credible or believable substance.
It was all a bit too "chick lit" for me - not my cup of tea I'm sorry to say. Mar 04, Emely rated it it was ok Shelves: fiction. This book is full of "perfect" characters who always say and do the right thing. Not to mention all of the characters had the exact same voice. Feb 06, Trish Hills rated it it was amazing. I really like the concept of this book. I like to think she is. Hannah writes this story so beautifully and with such tenderness, it really made me believe that my Mum is still around me.
Little Ellie is so wise, so inquisitive and contemplative. I love the way she thinks about things and the non-stop questions when she is gripped by a topic. I felt like I had shared all the happy times with her and Rachel. She I really like the concept of this book. Max is a lovely character and such a wonderful husband and father. He really is so warm and gentle with Ellie and all of the people in his life who loved his late wife. Connor and Harriet are such great supporting characters too. I wish I had a Harriet in my life!
I laughed, cried, smiled, remembered and felt. I love books that make me feel! There are too many amazing books out there now! This is certainly another one of them! A beautiful, heart warming, tender, bitter sweet story of love and loss!
Jan 22, MyGoodBookshelf rated it it was amazing Shelves: fiction , family-drama , netgalley-early-reads. Dec 18, Ana rated it it was amazing Shelves: read-in , releases , books-i-own. When Hannah shared her first chapter I knew I had to immediately check it out. I was hooked from the very first page. I suspect there aren't many people who would voluntarily relinquish all that, given the choice. But what I found really fascinating was the way this book was cleverly divided in parts which showed the things Rachel was going through, the different stages starting from shock, to denial, anger etc.
As human beings, we might be different when it comes to many things, but we sure are so similar when it comes to grief, pain and loss. We all feel it and we have a hard time accepting the loss. I've never thought about what would happen to my loved ones if I died, totally unexpected just like Rachel did. I could feel her pain, her grief, her worst fears. For the dead, to be forgotten is as if never to have lived at all. Because those memories are who we were, who we are, they define us.
The Dead Wife's Handbook
I bow to you Hannah! View 2 comments. Dec 29, Dawn rated it it was amazing. The first thing that drew me in was the gorgeous cover - the colours are so vibrant and stunning - I just wanted to pick it up and run my hands repeatedly over it. The book revolves around Rachel, who dies suddenly, without warning and that of her husband Max and daughter Ellie, along with their family and friends who are trying to help them build a new life for themselves without Rachel.
Rachel is able to glimpse snippets of her former life through a cloud like haze and the story is told through her. The total opposite of what I thought would be quite nice. Watching them suffer, and not being able to comfort and then the pain of watching them move on would be horrendous. I can only imagine the tears Hannah must have shed whilst writing this book. The emotions I felt were raw and quite real. Grief affects us all differently and the fact that Rachel, Max, Ellie and their friends and family were at different stages made it all the more difficult.
This is a truly amazing book which I have gladly recommended to all of my friends. Jan 16, Megan Readinginthesunshine rated it it was amazing. Rachel had the perfect life — a husband she loved with all of her heart and their beautiful daughter Ellie. Rachel may be dead but she is stuck, left to watch fragments of their life helplessly without being able to be involved.
And when Max is persuaded be family and friends to start dating again, Rachel finds that she is helpless as life begins to move on without her… Wow. I went through such a range of emotions whilst reading this book. As Rachel is the narrator of the story, we see what she sees and so it was easy to relate to her. Over the course of the book I felt very close to her as I knew all of her thoughts and feelings.
I had mixed feelings on Max dating again in the beginning, yes no one would want their husband to be sad and upset forever but oh how my heart broke for Rachel, to know that the absolute love of her life was beginning to go out and meet other women. My heart literally broke for her as she came to the realisation that her mum would never be returning. Every aspect of grief is very well written about, Hannah has really captured this perfectly and the entire story is a compelling and emotional journey, not only for Rachel, Max and Ellie, but for me too.
I genuinely felt so touched and moved by the story. It is not all sadness though, there some very uplifting moments, and it is wonderful to spend some time with the characters! Ellie was my favourite, I loved her happier moments, the times that she got to have fun and enjoy herself. This is true story of grief, but also of learning, of remembering the happy times, and of acceptance too.
Jan 20, Bookevin rated it it was amazing. As she watches from above, she witnesses her loved ones coping with grief, afraid of moving on, while she painfully undergoes the seven stages of grief. Well, because her death and sudden departure is just the beginning of her problems.. Before reading the entire book, I thought it would be about a deceased heroine, struggling with life after death. But I was so wrong. As a reader to character, if that makes any sense. An exceptional debut novel, if you ask me. My parting words: Go get it!
Feb 05, Margaret Madden rated it it was amazing Shelves: kindle. Rachel is dead. She looks down from above as her husband, Max and her seven year old daughter, Ellie, try to continue their lives without her. She feels the pain as much as anyone alive would, maybe even more. It's raw, intense and heartbreaking. Unlike the living, there is no way to send her loved ones a message.
She has no control over when she can see them, sometimes months going by. Then things start to get very emotional as she watches her husband dip his feet back into the dating world Rationally I know that I'm dead, that Max is a widower, that he's free to pursue other relationships. Rationally I don't want him to be unhappy, in mourning and lonely forever. But those rational feelings aren't sufficiently robust to repel an onslaught of irrational impulses, that Max has betrayed me, that he's moved on too quickly, that he's desecrated the memory of our marriage with this act of emotional and physical treachery.
And stoking the flames of envy's fury are those repetitive, invidious images of what I presume took place last night. We see Max and Ellie try to move on with their lives but we also see Rachel's mother, who is grief stricken and alone, many miles away from her grandaughter and any link she had to Rachel.
We also see Rachel's best friend, of many years, as she struggles with Max's new life and all that entails. The main characters, however, are Max and Ellie. When I read the first few chapters I couldn't help but think of the discussions I have had with my own husband about whether I would want him finding someone new after my death, or whether he should stay a faithful widower. We are expected to say we want them to move on with their lives and find happiness if we are taken from them early.
That may not be what we are really thinking though, as to watch the love of your life meet someone new scares the hell out of some of us. Maybe we would never know. May not be able to see anything when we have passed on. Who knows? This novel will make you think about it a bit more. It might even make you appreciate what you have, even more than usual.
Oct 03, Tilly rated it it was ok. Predominantly the story is about her grief and sincere regret about leaving her husband, Max behind and their seven year old daughter, Ellie. Rachel is left in limbo and although she can flit between life on earth and the white stratosphere which she knows as death she will never be able to hold her family close, or enjoy any golden time with them again and she feels selfish for exiting their lives prematurely.
I anticipated that it would be a poignant and heart warming story of how a young mother and wife was taken much too soon from her picture perfect family. Admittedly there were some very enjoyable parts of the book, I felt that the characters worked very well and had good relationships together. I would have liked to have been presented with some more information about the characters at the end I can only say this without giving anything away.
Feb 06, Sheelagh rated it did not like it. I was looking forward to this book based on the blurb, however despite leaving it several times and coming back to it, this is one of those exceedingly rare books I have not been able to finish. I should say at this point that my own sister died young, leaving young children so maybe this book was too close for comfort.
I will keep this book on my shelf and try again one day but for now this is not a book for me Jan 30, Book Addict Shaun rated it really liked it Shelves: , kindle. Hannah Beckerman recently wrote this brilliant article about the lack of reviews for books written by women in serious publications. Review: So to the book then and it's one that I am finding very difficult to discuss. I read just one review of this book before starting it because I think you need to go into it without having the opinions of others in the back of your mind, as I find that can often influence how I feel about a book.
I did want to form my own opinion with this, and it's a book that will effect people in various ways depending on where they are in life, whether they themselves are married or have children, and how we have all experienced death in our lives. Ultimately though I would hope most of us take from the book the same message and we will all value and appreciate our loved ones so much more after finishing this book. The idea behind the book is interesting, if a little confusing in the beginning when we are introduced to Rachel, who is dead, and almost stuck in limbo in this white space that every so often opens to allow her to follow the lives of her husband Max and daughter Ellie but there's no real explanation as to where she is or why.
Rachel cannot see everything that Max and Ellie are doing, but is mostly given access to those moments that will provoke the biggest reaction in her, the ones that will anger her, break her heart, torture her, and remind her of the love she has for her family and what she has lost and as the book is split into sections titled in order of the stages of grief, it does work quite well even if it is a little formulaic.
I actually found it a little uncomfortable reading it in the beginning and have to say that if I'd experienced the loss of a parent I probably wouldn't have read on. My mum was pretty open about death from a young age, never sugarcoating anything the way some parents can but I have always had the belief that something about a person remains behind when they die, and the idea of someone you love watching over you in this way, and having feelings of resentfulness and jealousy is quite difficult to think about.
We all want that comfort to grasp onto when somebody we love dies. I have to say though that despite these thoughts I was compelled to read on, almost like Rachel, I didn't want to look away and as my thoughts and emotions jumped all over the place as I read, that compulsion didn't leave me until I reached the final page. I have to be honest and say that for the first half of the book I didn't like Rachel much. I did find her selfish with some of the things she was thinking but then I began to understand her by putting myself in that situation. It's easy to say to a loved one whilst alive that you would want them to find happiness again if you died, but another thing entirely to then find yourself dead and forced to watch that start to happen.
I felt at times that Rachel's reactions towards what Max was doing were almost how she would react if he was cheating on her or if she was alive and it took her a while to see things as, well, a dead woman. Max had no idea his dead wife was watching what he was doing. I often find myself over thinking books and it'd be interesting to see how Rachel would have acted as the widow. It was only as the book progressed, and Rachel started going through the various stages of grief that I completely and utterly felt for her, my heart ached and I had a permanent lump in my throat for near enough the remainder of the book.
Also I actually think my thoughts would be pretty much the same as Rachel's had I been in this situation. I'd probably liken it to waking up during surgery but being unable to move or communicate to tell the surgeon you can feel the pain. Rachel was unable to reach out and communicate with Max and Ellie and that was awful. Rachel and Max's daughter, Ellie, was a standout character for me and her relationship with her father was just a joy to read. Losing a parent at any age is horrible but for a young child it's incomprehensible and I completely felt for Ellie, who asks some difficult questions in that way only a child can do and at times I really felt her grief.
Max and Ellie have each other whereas Rachel is stuck, alone, I had to read this book in just two sittings, I needed that break in between but could not have stopped reading this book overnight as I would have been wide awake thinking about it. It is fairly obvious where the book will eventually lead and I needed to get to that conclusion, to the acceptance stage, but there's also something comforting about that as well as we go on this journey with the characters. This is a remarkable book, one that as I said will provoke different reactions from different people, and one that I could discuss for hours.
Hannah Beckerman clearly has massive talent and I for one can't wait to read more from her though I believe a new book is very far off. Having finished my review I have read some from my fellow bloggers, here's some of my favourites: Erin's Choice , Leah Loves , I Heart Chick Lit and This Chick Reads. Jan 02, Rebecca rated it it was amazing.
I've read romance, drama, mystery, thrillers, horrors and even the odd crime book on occasion. I've experienced love, betrayal, fear, excitement and heart-break, all at the hands of those incredible authors who have managed to somehow, with their words and characters, envelope me within a million different worlds, all whilst I'm sat in the comfort of my own home. I've cried, I've laughed, I've clasped a hand over a shocked mouth and I've even, during a fair few, fallen head over heels in love. I cannot even begin to describe the onslaught of emotions I experienced as I turned the pages of this story again and again, delving deeper and deeper into a story that has changed me for the better.
This book, and Hannah's stunning writing, has left a mark on me that I know will never go away. This is one of those books that will wriggle relentlessly and break through the barriers of all that you think you know about life and all that it entails.
One of those books that will, without a doubt, be stored in my mind forever more, and be mentioned to others again and again, brought up in conversation, referred to repeatedly, It is a book that I know will remain in the depths of my heart, as well as in my being, for a very long time, if not always. In all of the previous books that I've had the pleasure of reading, I've taken something away from each of them, but I think that this time, The Dead Wife's Handbook has taken away a little piece of me and captured it between the pages.
When Rachel's story begins, one year has passed since her tragic death.
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One year since her heart suddenly stopped beating, and she was no longer on earth with her husband Max and their daughter Ellie. When we meet Rachel, it becomes clear that she is somewhere otherworldly.
Guest Post: Hannah Beckerman, author of The Dead Wife’s Handbook – Sam Still Reading
Surrounded by white, completely alone but for her memories and feelings, Rachel is somewhere between the world and whatever lies on the opposite side. I've read books like this before, where the author places their character in a place that some would know as the 'in-between', and it never fails to make me sit up straight and pay close attention. As the story progresses, it becomes clear to the reader that even though Rachel is no longer alive and on earth with her loved ones, someone or something is allowing her to look down and watch her family as they grieve and attempt to slowly move forward with their lives.
This, in itself, was utterly heartbreaking, yet each and every time the white clouds that surrounded Rachel began to disperse, I became even more enchanted and felt just as eager as Rachel to see how Ellie, Max, and the rest of their family and friends were coping. In a nutshell, The Dead Wife's Handbook follows Rachel through some of the most bitter-sweet moments she has ever known; from seeing Max fall in love with another woman, to witnessing her darling, darling girl Ellie placing flowers at her headstone.
The emotions that Rachel experiences as she watches her family trying to come to terms with her death were gut-twistingly real and raw. I swear, every emotion that the dear woman felt, I felt it too. It was like I was perching up above the clouds with Rachel, watching every single feeling pass over her face as she watched the scenes unfold below.
Hannah's descriptions of Rachel's memories were absolutely beautiful, tender and warm, and all the more capable of splitting my heart into two. Rachel talked about when she and Max first met, Ellie's birth, their holidays and celebrations, and this opened up an entire history, making these characters more believable than ever. As Rachel relayed their beautiful past, it became even harder for me to come to terms with the fact that she was no longer on earth with her family, almost as hard as it was for Rachel to come to terms with it.
From beginning to end, this book was an overwhelming roller-coaster of truths. Hannah split Rachel's story into parts, all titled with, what I interpreted as, the steps of the grieving process, and it wasn't long until I realised that it wasn't only the people left on earth who were grieving for Rachel, but Rachel herself was grieving too, for the life that she'd left behind, and the family, and all of the hopes and dreams that she hadn't had the chance to pursue.
It was painful, for me, to read Rachel's first person narrative, to have her feelings flow through my body as if they were my own, and to also be invited to look down upon her family as their lives continued. I don't think I've ever been so affected by a book before now, and all I can say is that I can't believe I left it so long before I finally read it. The characters, the circumstances, the moments that Rachel knew were coming but couldn't bear to witness It all came together in the end to wring every last tear from me. And then some This book had it all.
From the emotional trauma to the beautiful realisation that life, after all, is just a fleeting moment in time, and you need to live it completely and utterly to the fullest. Make memories, laugh, love, and enjoy every single tiny millisecond, because if Rachel's experiences from up above were true, then I'd want to be left in that white space with all of my favourite memories to remember again and again.
Hannah Beckerman, I absolutely salute you. This was a glittering masterpiece of a book, overflowing with pure, unconditional love. Feb 04, Leah rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites , books-read , for-review. I knew it had the potential to be a massive debut — and make Hannah Beckerman an instant Chick Lit favourite, and I adore the cover. I embrace it. In fact, if possible, it surpasses the hype, and it was amazing. Chick Lit fans are always going to be a bit wary of a novel about a dead person. It was basically the story of how a dead wife had to see her husband and daughter move their life on, and it was all very real.
I was sort of torn over Rachel. Or worse, to see your kid and not be able to do anything. It was so hard sometimes to keep reading about all these wonderful memories Rachel had, and to see her answering her loved ones but without them being able to hear, it was just devastating. My absolute favourite parts of the novel were the interactions between Max and Ellie. What they go through is so awful, so life-changing and I loved how they muddled through together, with family stepping in where necessary but not overstepping, which was also pretty cool.
It did create some friction for me, because I was actually Team Max. I really, really enjoyed it, but there were definitely some times when I questioned the novel — all good novels should provoke questions, right? It was such a good book, Beckerman is an amazing writer, and this is one of the most beautiful portrayals of grief I will probably ever read. It totally lived up to the hype, and then some. Dec 30, Simona rated it it was amazing. Now, let's quickly talk about the cover, I think it's absolutely gorgeous. The colours are perfect and I adore the idea of the whole picture, with the woman and her hair, the flowers and the birds.
The writing completes the beautiful picture and after having read the story, I truly believe it's a perfect match. This is I think the first book I read from a death character's POV, but I loved the idea and I fell in love with the story on the first page already. The way Rachel's feelings and emotions were described and also the way she was "still" part of the lives of her beloved ones was brilliant.
I felt like looking down on the other characters and being a real witness to their story. Max and Ellie are wonderful. Max is such a great and caring father and their connection and chemistry was so cute. Ellie is only seven and she already had to deal with her mother's death and Max?! He just can't move on. It was interesting and intriging to see how that developed, with Max starting to date again and Ellie reacting to this.
I adored Ellie in this book, so sweet and inncocent and she made me smile all the time. Reading this from Rachel's perspective and still being able to understand the other characters was amazing. Nobody came short, not Harriet Rachel's best friend , Celia her mum or Max's parents and his brother Connor. They all had a special role in this story and they were integrated in it, in such an easy, but still marvellous way. Then there was Eve, she was introduced to the novel step by step and she turned out to be such a lovely girl, with a hard background and so much love and understanding for Max and Ellie.
It was difficult for Ellie of course, but I felt that these two ladies were going to be inseparable. There was also enough drama and some difficult situations, which added the right spice to it and made the novel appear even more real. It seemed that it was all about the other characters dealing with Rachel's death, but it was also Rachel herself dealing with it and trying to move on. It made me think about life from a different perspective and it really shows to enjoy all the little things as well, memories are a treasure to keep.