Household Guide to Dying

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The Household Guide to Dying is a moving, witty, and uplifting novel about Delia, who writes an acerbic and wildly popular household advice column. When Delia realizes that she is losing her long battle with cancer, she decides to organize her remaining months - and her husband and children's future lives without her - the same way she has always ordered their household. Unlike the many faithful readers of her advice column - people who are rendered lost and confused when faced with dirty shirt collars - Delia ...
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Waterville, ME 2009 Hard cover Large Print ed. Large type / large print. Good. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. Thorndike Core.

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Overview

The Household Guide to Dying is a moving, witty, and uplifting novel about Delia, who writes an acerbic and wildly popular household advice column. When Delia realizes that she is losing her long battle with cancer, she decides to organize her remaining months - and her husband and children's future lives without her - the same way she has always ordered their household. Unlike the many faithful readers of her advice column - people who are rendered lost and confused when faced with dirty shirt collars - Delia knows just what to do. She will leave a list for her daughter's future wedding; fill the freezer with homemade sausages, stews, and sauces; and even (maddeningly) offer her husband suggestions for a new wife. She'll compile a lifetime's worth of advice for her children, and she'll even write the ultimate "Household Guide to Dying" for her fans. There is one item on her list, however, that proves too much even for "Dear Delia," and it is the single greatest task she had set for herself. Yet just as Delia is coming to terms with this, an unexpected visitor helps her believe in her life's worth in a way that no list ever could.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Domestic advice columnist Delia is terminally ill, but she has a few loose ends she'd like to wrap up before cancer takes her from her husband and two daughters in Australian novelist Adelaide's ho-hum latest. Though Delia makes lists that encompass everything from the morning routine to planning her daughters' weddings, hoping to control what will come after she is gone, much of what is on her mind is her distant past in the small town of Amethyst, where she lived after she left home at 17 to raise her firstborn. Adelaide metes that portion out slowly, and readers will have figured out the twists long before she gets there. What Delia faces and remembers about her time in Amethyst leaves her better able to face gracefully her own imminent departure, which she chronicles in an advice book. That project leads to some off-kilter scenes (such as Delia observing an autopsy and casket shopping), and though the book ends sweetly, Delia's distant narrative tone and the erratic time line rob the tale of emotional impact. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Dry meditations on preparing for death and a trip down memory lane preoccupy the cancer-stricken heroine of a reflective, overburdened but not too sentimental story. A mother with a past is about to be snatched away too soon from her devoted husband and female children and needs to leave matters in order, in Australian novelist Adelaide's latest (The Hotel Albatross, 1995, etc.). The central character, Delia, doesn't have much time left and is obsessing about preparing for her young daughters' weddings, while needing to tie up loose ends regarding her own early life and also writing The Household Guide to Dying, the final volume in the Household Guides series related to her domestic-advice column. These jostling strands make for a choppy, sometimes chronologically confusing narrative, further fragmented by flashbacks and glimpses of Delia's professional correspondence. Adelaide's discursive style adds an additional gossipy dimension. However, the story of Delia's teenage pregnancy emerges through the thicket-how her boyfriend abandoned her; how she lived in a caravan, in a small town, as a single parent; how she coped when tragedy struck. Because of her illness, Delia has trouble finishing Household Guide to Dying, but Adelaide succeeds in wrapping things up gracefully. Despite the cluttered scenario and downbeat subject matter, the author's witty, perky tone and insight prevail. Agent: Lizzy Kremer/David Higham Associates
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781410416858
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 7/1/2009
  • Edition description: Large Print
  • Pages: 514
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Debra Adelaide has worked as an editor, book reviewer, and researcher, and she is now a senior lecturer in creative writing at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. This is her first book to be published in the United States.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Lovely, tender book

    I don't know what I was expecting, but this wasn't it. This is a story of a woman, dying of cancer, and her way of dealing with it.... by writing a "how to" book with a guide to dying, and all that entails. Might sound a little "off-putting" and initially, maybe so, however I got swept into her life, and the twists and turns it made. I enjoyed the back and forth, as the chapters flipped from her past to the present. It was easy to follow, but kept my mind active. I could relate to Delia, first as a mom, (and all that we do to keep our households running), to wife, (and all we do to keep that end running), and our friends, and then dealing with death, (and yes, I'm dealing with the sentence of cancer as well). It's not a dark, hankie sopping, morbid novel, although there are some rather morbid topics, - how do you pick a coffin/casket? but it is enlightening, and will capture the imagination, and will capture your heart too. And oh, the ending.... but not really a goodbye. What a full story!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2009

    If you're afraid of death, pass over this one--everyone else, delight.

    If you're afraid of death, in denial that you too will die, don't like talking about it, thinking about it, can't handle when other people die, then this is a book you should avoid--it will make you confront all those bits you hope to escape.

    This story is like a pair of well worn jeans, the softest flannel pajamas, a fresh pot of tea--it's lyrical but also combative--a bit like a terminal diagnosis perhaps. She does die--there is no happy ending in the Hollywood sense (for those of you surprised by the Titanic's demise as well) but there is lovely closure in many aspects of her life. She takes control of her dying (pointing out the differences between dying and death in a wonderful and accurate way) until she realizes that control is an illusion and relaxes into the process.

    It's a beautiful book, one that clearly understands the process of dying and the points of grieving the mundane to the profound along the way. A wonderful book for book clubs and discussions. Perhaps even a gift for the dying--I feel a great camaraderie with the lead, I think perhaps comfort and less aloneness might come with the gift of this story. Though the autopsy and organ donation parts might require skimming by the squeamish I think they're important to contemplate as parts of the whole.

    A great fiction to stand beside nonfiction titles: FINAL GIFTS, HOW WE DIE, DYING WELL and others.

    Take care to note though there is a child's death as well in this book which could be most difficult for some readers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2010

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    Delightful, light read.

    I enjoyed this book enough as a light read. It was cute, I'd say. It had the possibility of being very dark, but instead was interesting and quick. I enjoyed the way the author traded off between memories and current time, and how practical the main character was. I felt she was very real and easy to relate to. I didn't particularily enjoy her articles, which I felt were slightly rude and detracted from the story, but I did enjoy her inner monologue and the way the author told the story of her first son. This is a good book to pick up, and it was well worth the time spent.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Not Uplifting...

    I was extremely disappointed in this book. I enjoyed Delia'a story of her early life and making peace with it. I found many of the other portions much too graphic, some even disgusting. I would think this book's appeal would be to a very small sector of the reading public. I usually pass along my books when I finish them. I can't think of anyone who would "enjoy" this. About the only thing I can think of to do with it, is throw it in the garbage.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2009

    wise and sharp

    It's hard to believe that a novel about dying can be so funny, so sharp, and so truthful and moving at the same time. Delia is not a woman who is ready to go quietly into her own dark night - she meets the knowledge of her own impending demise with incredible strength and resolution, determined to do what she needs to do to deal with all the unresolved stuff from her past so that she can let go with some measure of acceptance. The truths that this book reveals are so ultimately simple and wise and as paradoxical as life itself: embracing life and love means embracing it all - fear, anger, and loss as well as the good stuff, for better or worse.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2009

    Just like life

    Although confronting and graphic at times, it's a gentle hymn to the underrated joys of domesticity and is filled with humour, warmth and sadness - just like life.
    Paula Grunset (Good Reading magazine)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2009

    Warm, funny, wise . . .

    Delia is such a wonderful character.Warm, funny, wise. As a reader I so wanted her not to die. Not to leave behind her husband, her children, her chickens. And as I approached the end I knew that she would and the saddest part for me as a reader is that I also knew I would no longer have her in my life. And I so wanted her to continue, to be part of my life.

    This is such a beautifully written book. Perfectly structured and with an amazing emotional pull. I cannot believe anyone would not be touched by this stunning book.

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  • Posted March 31, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Highly recommended

    This is so much more than a book about a woman dying- It's a book about those times in our lives were we look back at who we were and who we have become. I found it a compelling and well written read. A worthy book to have been long listed for the 2009 Orange Broadband Prize for Ficion in the UK.
    The character Delia will resonate with you for a long long time.
    I urge you to read this novel- it will be one you will keep and share with others. I also recommend this as a future book club pick with lots of discussion possibilities.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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