07 April, 2014

Book Review: The Household Guide to Dying

From Goodreads: "As I resigned myself to the fact that the latest Household Guide I'd written would be my last, I conceived in a flash the best idea ever. I rang Nancy and left a message. 'Think of the title,' I said. 'How catchy does The Household Guide to Dying sound?'"

When Delia Bennet–author and domestic advice columnist–is diagnosed with cancer, she knows it's time to get her house in order. After all, she's got to secure the future for her husband, their two daughters and their five beloved chickens. But as she writes lists and makes plans, questions both large and small creep in. Should she divulge her best culinary secrets? Read her favourite novels one last time? Plan her daughters' far-off weddings?
Complicating her dilemma is the matter of the past, and a remote country town where she fled as a pregnant teenager, only to leave broken-hearted eight years later.
Researching and writing her final Household Guide, Delia is forced to confront the pieces of herself she left behind. She learns what matters is not the past but the present–that the art of dying is all about truly living.
Fresh, witty, deeply moving–and a celebration of love, family and that place we call home–this unforgettable story will surprise and delight the reader until the very last page.

Thoughts: What a lovely book. Funny, thoughtful, sad, perfect. Debra Adelaide has taken an incredibly sensitive subject and treated it, not with kid gloves, but raw emotion and honesty.
The Household Guide to Dying jumps around a bit, from the present day, to the near past and to the far past - but it's easy to follow and you need to know everything that happens in each of those times to understand what is happening now. The book is also confronting. What would you do if you were dying? What are the things you would have to finish, find answers for, leave behind? What book will you be reading, what music will be playing and what will be truly important. As Delia examines all of these questions, you find yourself asking the same questions.
I love and admired Delia quiet determination, her acceptance of what was happening and her desire to leave a bit of herself behind for her daughters. I love her lack of reverence for certain things and the feeling of freedom she expressed. When my time comes, I can only hope I do it with as much grace and dignity as she did.
A word of warning - if you have someone close to you battling cancer this book may cut close to the bone. It may require you to think about things you may not want to, but possibly should. It makes me think Adelaide either did some really good research or she is incredibly empathetic. Her portrayal of  someone dying appeared to me to be authentic and true, but not depressing. A wonderful book.