THE DEAD WIFE'S HANDBOOK by Hannah Beckerman


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Beckerman’s debut novel provides an intriguing tale of love after death and an insightful look at the bereavement process from both sides of the grave.

We meet Rachel somewhere in the afterworld—a silent white void—where she grieves her sudden death at age 36, which has stolen her future with her beloved husband, Max, and young daughter, Ellie. The ethereal whiteness sometimes dissipates and she has access to their world; she can watch them and listen to them, but she can't interact. Worst of all, she still experiences the whole range of human emotions. Rachel feels a burden of sorrow for the pain her death causes her family, but she also feels loved and less isolated witnessing their sadness and feels jealousy when Max and Ellie begin to move on, creating new lives and finding new love. She dreads the day when she finds herself in the “corner of someone’s mind, neatly packed away in a box marked ‘Memories.’ ” Beckerman sensitively articulates the grieving process for Rachel and also for Max and Ellie. She draws from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' On Death and Dying, titling five of her chapters after Kübler-Ross' five stages of grief. Beckerman makes no pretense of portraying an actual after-death experience, nor does she draw upon traditional spiritual beliefs about what exists after death. Instead, she uses the motif of the bleak, white afterlife as a place for Rachel to ponder her former existence and come to a deeper understanding of what her life meant, as well as a vantage point for readers to experience Max’s and Ellie's mourning.

Beckerman provides gentle instruction for her readers through what Rachel learns from death's journey. This is a touching, honest story of death—sad at times but not grim.

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-62872-450-9
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Arcade
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2014


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