>Delia is an advice columnist with attitude, a household how-to guide maven, mother of two young girls, and dying. As she faces her cancer-shortened future, she contemplates her future and comes to grips with her past.
From the proper etiquette of hanging unmentionables on the rotary clothesline to the erotic pleasure of watching the man in her life toss dirty clothes in the washer, Delia can solve any dilemma related to laundry. She advises a grungy bachelor to thoroughly clean his bathroom in order to keep his girlfriend in his life, an unhappy wife how to clean red wine out of a tablecloth while addressing her attraction to her husband’s assistant, and both ordinary and unexpected domestic dilemmas.
But the real dilemma for Delia is how to prepare for her own death. Coming to grips with her past, addressing a future without her presence, she decides to write her last How-to guide: The Household Guide to Dying. This guide makes sense to her because she’s writing from experience even as she goes through the process noted in the title. Her editor balks at first, then encourages her to continue. Writing this Household Guide helps “control-freak” Delia recognize that she can make an impact, but she cannot plan and control everything.
Readers meet Delia as she revisits her past in a trip to a tiny trailer in a tiny circus town that she called home for nine tumultous years in her early adulthood. Some memories are innocuous, some hurtful, some more complex than she’d expected. All are important in her emotional journey to seek answers to life’s peaceful and painful questions.
At times I felt like Delia and her family were much too calm. I was almost grateful when her daughters and husband broke down yelling and crying. “I hate you because you’re dying!” was much more realistic dialogue from an eleven-year-old than some of the other talk.
Ultimately, I found The Household Guide to Dying to be a pleasant and interesting story. I didn’t feel tears as it came to a close; rather, I felt peaceful. The novel isn’t so much a death story as it is a tale of life and personality, a tale that leads to closure. Don’t fear the potential sadness in the title: this is a novel to read and savor.
Mothertalk provided me with an early pre-publication proof to read for this review along with a small honorarium from Amazon.com.