An illustrator daughter and her writer mother combine on a graphic volume of advice from the dead to the living.
The introduction by Los Angeles–based Bateman (Brave New Work, 2017) suggests that she was troubled since girlhood by fears of death and by her mother’s death in particular. One night, she writes, “I allowed myself to vividly imagine my mom’s death, to feel the pain of the moment I learned she was gone.” Such intimations of mortality gave birth to this book, as the two collaborated on what advice the mother could impart to the daughter from beyond the grave, first day by day and then proceeding through the stages of life, when the daughter will find herself facing the same fate that she imagines for her mother. “Your parent’s death is nature’s way of breaking the shocking news to you that it’s your turn next,” begins the advice on Day 21, which is titled, “Take a Hike.” There are many different activities suggested for distraction in the days immediately following the death of one’s mother, along with recipes (the sort that might pass through a family) and, eventually, advice for taking stock, moving on, and maturing into a person who will face the end of her own life. The advice is always warm and often wise, accompanied by illustrations that often reflect a playfulness reminiscent of Roz Chast. This isn’t a morbid book, nor a particularly dark one, but a book about facing the inevitable with grace and good humor. By the time you reach “Day 17,000: Show compassion,” you realize that this life is all we have, so you might as well make the most of it: “Be kind to yourself. No matter your age, you deserve clean clothes and a hot meal and good company."
A pleasant and simple book about dying that is very much about living.