The last book I needed

A review of ‘Everybody died so I got a dog’ by Emily Dean

As a man whose wife and best friend died 16 months ago, and who adopted a dog 13 months ago, you might feel this is the last book I ought to read.  Not only that, but ever since Fiona died, reading itself has turned on me. Those companionable moments of reading together side by side, and those lonely vigil moments of reading to the hum of the oxygen machine as she slept fitfully have conspired to put me off it. Losing myself in a book, plunging down its overgrown paths and striding across its new landscapes is a pleasure which I thought had been lost – until this one. I read this book over a period of 48 hours, captivated in a way which I thought the printed page would never do for me again. Thank you, Emily.

Having said that, I almost fell at the first hurdle. The life described here is one of such a Bohemian nature that many would struggle to identify with it. How quickly, though, that becomes irrelevant. This is an honest, warm, engaging account of what it means to love the people you did not choose – your family. Of course, the price of love is the depth of loss – and you should brace yourself to feel it here. Emily tells it with a disarming frankness and a rawness which I found impossible to resist. There was a point where I had to leave the book for a few hours, but only because the words had stirred up some very poignant memories:

I kissed her forehead. She belonged to another world now, not mine. It was almost my sister, but not quite.

After the loss, and the loss, and the loss again comes something new and rather wonderful. I will leave Emily to introduce you to Raymond, though – as she can do it far better than I.

I started reading this book because I bumped into Emily at an event where I was trying to encourage people to talk about bereavement and loss. Our inability to do so as a nation is making some lonely people lonelier still. There will be many ways to change that, but one of them will be when authors introduce us to what loss feels like, whilst still proving that there is a life beyond it. This is a book about death which is a celebration of life. In language which you will come to recognise in the book itself, it is all a bit ‘chilled hands round steaming mug of tea’ – stings a bit at first but then warms you up so much you don’t want to put it down.

My adopted companion, Ginny, minding Emily's book

My adopted companion, Ginny, minding Emily’s book


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