The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

It's ironic, I know, that it's only in death that I've learnt how to live. 

Title - The Dead Wife's Handbook
Author - Hannah Beckerman 
Publication Date - 13th February 2014
Publisher - Penguin 
Format - Paperback (Received as a gift)
Pages - 477

The blurb

"Today is my death anniversary. A year ago today I was still alive."

Rachel, Max and their daughter Ellie had the perfect life - until the night Rachel's heart stopped beating. 

Now Max and Ellie are doing their best to adapt to life without Rachel, and just as her family can't forget her, Rachel can't quite let go of them either. Caught in a place between worlds, Rachel watches helplessly as she begins to fade from their lives. And when Max is persuaded by family and friends to start dating again, Rachel starts to understand that dying was just the beginning of her problems. 

As Rachel grieves for the life she's lost and the life she'll never lead, she learns that sometimes the thing that breaks your heart might be the very thing you hope for. 

Becca's thoughts

Since beginning my blog, Becca's Books, and a very long time before that, I have read hundreds and hundreds of books. 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. But never, and I mean never, have I closed a book and been left to feel the way that I did when I closed The Dead Wife's Handbook. 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. 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. 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.

Becca's Books is rating The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman with FIVE SCRUMMY CUPCAKES! 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.


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