How Not to Die Alone

How Not to Die Alone
Richard Roper

Reviewed by Phil

Andrew has an unusual job with the local council: He searches the homes of people who have died alone to try and find any trace of their next of kin. He takes his job seriously and, when he fails to find any relatives of the deceased, he attends their funerals himself as a mark of respect. Often, he is the only person there.

Andrew is very much a loner. He barely tolerates his colleagues, and goes home each night to an empty flat. He finds solace in his model trains and a small group of like-minded train enthusiasts who meet in an online chatroom each night. There’s BroadGaugeJim, TinkerAl, and BamBam67. After Andrew sets his model trains in motion on the tracks that loop around his apartment, puts Ella Fitzgerald on the stereo, and logs into the chatroom, he can finally unwind.

“This was when everything came together. This was everything.”

Then Andrew is assigned to work with Peggy, a new employee at the council. For the first time in years, he feels a spark – of joy, of life, of love…

It’s crunch time for Andrew – everyone at work believes he is happily married to a beautiful woman and that they have two wonderful children. What started as a simple misunderstanding years ago has grown into a complicated web of stories and taken on a life of its own.

Things are brought to a head when Andrew’s boss decides the office needs to do some team-building and organizes a roster of dinner parties. How can Andrew explain the absence of a wife, two missing children, and an apartment filled with model trains?

In desperation, Andrew turns to his online support group, the train enthusiasts, to help him add one last hilarious scene to his alternative life, before everything crumbles and he is faced with reality.

“How Not to Die Alone” is a delightful novel with a cast of quirky characters and a bubbling storyline. It’s a story about love and loss and loneliness, and the importance of embracing the opportunities that life presents. The book is filled with laugh-out-loud scenes, tempered with moments of touching sadness. This is a warm and uplifting read.

Richard Roper lives in London where he works as an editor at Headline Publishing. “How Not to Die Alone” is his first novel.