The Household Guide to Dying: Book Review

– Posted in: Book reviews
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I can just hear you now. “Kathy, what is a fiction book doing on your blog? Why are you offering this as a prize in your scavenger hunt?” I was wondering the same thing when an editor from Penguin emailed me offering a review copy, but it turns out gardens and gardening are woven through the setting and plot of The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide.

Delia, the main character, is dying of cancer, and as you might imagine, she struggles to reconcile herself to this. She has written a number of popular household guides, and like any good writer, copes with her present difficulties by writing about them, hence the title of the book.

Her husband is a landscape designer, but Delia is quite familiar with the plants in their garden and until recently was gardening right along with her husband. She looks forward to the plants’ growth and bloom, delights in their fragrances, and includes them in important memories. So this is not a book about gardening per se, but a book in which plants are an integral part of everyday life: the world viewed through the eyes of a gardener. It’s very satisfying to read a novel where plants are so thoroughly interwoven into the inner life of the main character.

You quickly realize that Delia has something unresolved from her past that is troubling her, and it is the engine that drives the plot of The Household Guide to Dying. Despite graduating from college with an English degree, I am the last one to see these things coming, so the ending took me by surprise. Looking back over the course of the book, I could see the author had left clues that a more analytical reader might have put together, but me, I become emotionally involved in every book I read. I found myself mulling over various aspects of the plot and Delia’s character for a couple days afterward, and then I started thinking of friends who would enjoy this book.

That’s where you come in, my gardening friends. Think ahead: summer is coming, and you’re going to want a novel for your hammock, beach chair, or–dare I say it?–garden bench. This would be a good choice, and you could win a copy.

The Household Guide to Dying is one of the prizes being offered in our scavenger hunt Have you entered yet?

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Xris (Flatbush Gardener) April 8, 2009, 10:36 am

I have a long-running series of posts relating grief and gardening. For me, they are inextricably related. Gardens are continual reminders of cycles of birth, growth, life, senescence, and death. Everything is ephemeral, gardens inform us. And, if one is so inclined, gardens may impart transcendence.