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How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper
Contemporary fiction

How Not to Die Alone

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Richard Roper, on your first book!

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by Richard Roper

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Quick take

Steady job? Check. Great apartment? Check. Loving family? Well...

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FastRead

    Fast read

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Sad

    Sad

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Quirky

    Quirky

Synopsis

Andrew's been feeling stuck. For years he's worked a thankless public health job, searching for the next of kin of those who die alone. Luckily, he goes home to a loving family every night. At least, that's what his coworkers believe.

Then he meets Peggy.

A misunderstanding has left Andrew trapped in his own white lie and his lonely apartment. When new employee Peggy breezes into the office like a breath of fresh air, she makes Andrew feel truly alive for the first time in decades. But telling Peggy the truth could mean losing everything. For twenty years, Andrew has worked to keep his heart safe, forgetting one important thing: how to live. Maybe it's time for him to start.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of How Not to Die Alone.
How Not to Die Alone

Chapter 1

Andrew looked at the coffin and tried to remember who was inside it. It was a man—he was sure of that. But, horrifyingly, the name escaped him. He thought he’d narrowed it down to either John or James, but Jake had just made a late bid for consideration. It was inevitable, he supposed, that this had happened. He’d been to so many of these funerals it was bound to at some point, but that didn’t stop him from feeling an angry stab of self-loathing.

If he could just remember the name before the vicar said it, that would be something. There was no order of service, but maybe he could check his work phone. Would that be cheating? Probably. Besides, it would have been a tricky enough maneuver to get away with in a church full of mourners, but it was nearly impossible when the only other person there apart from him was the vicar. Ordinarily, the funeral director would have been there as well, but he had e-mailed earlier to say he was too ill to make it.

Unnervingly, the vicar, who was only a few feet away from Andrew, had barely broken eye contact since he’d started the service. Andrew hadn’t dealt with him before. He was boyish and spoke with a nervous tremor that was amplified unforgivingly by the echoey church. Andrew couldn’t tell if this was down to nerves. He tried out a reassuring smile, but it didn’t seem to help. Would a thumbs-up be inappropriate? He decided against it.

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Why I love it

Prepare yourself for hilarity and heart-squeezes in this life-affirming novel about—wait for it—death!

Andrew has an unusual job for a civil servant: He goes into the homes of deceased people who lived alone and searches their belongings for clues of any living relatives. He is respectful and sensitive, and the job suits him. Andrew himself lives a quiet life alone—not that his coworkers know that. For five years, due to a small error, he’s allowed them to believe he’s happily married with children.

Now Andrew’s lie has come back to bite him, not only because his boss is suggesting they take turns hosting team-building dinners, but also because of the new employee, Peggy. Peggy is friendly and full of life, and Andrew is falling for her. But if he tells her the truth, will she ever talk to him again? And will his boss fire him if he finds out the truth?

I had no idea what to expect when I started this, and was delighted to discover that not only was it full of humor, but it has so much heart. Roper has done a great job weaving together a story of one man’s loneliness and dreams in the face of mortality. I never found it to be too heavy, despite death playing a large part in the story, and I also found myself wishing that everything, against all odds, would turn out all right for Andrew in the end.

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Member ratings (8,301)

  • Jennifer Si Eun L.

    Forest Hills, NY

    It wasn’t what I’d expected but I loved the book. Also am glad to have come across and read this one before the book was renamed “Something to Live for.” I honestly would not have picked it up then.

  • Jennifer C.

    Santa Barbara, CA

    I’m typically a thriller and historical fiction gal, but I’m so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and picked this one! What a gem this is! It’s about grief and love and it gave me all the feels!!

  • Amy R.

    Mesa, AZ

    I don’t even know how to explain this book. It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. You want to protect him but beat him at the same time! It’ll make you look at strangers differently.

  • Sarah B.

    Nashville, TN

    I ADORED it. I love Andrew and I love the idea behind this book which I believe is what a lot of people misunderstood. The story isn’t leading anywhere in particular, which is the point. It’s subtle.

  • Joe A.

    San Francisco, CA

    One of the best books I’ve read this year. A beautiful and heartwarming story that examines loneliness, love, loss, and guilt with rich characters and excellent British humor. I didn’t want it to end.

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