Something to Live for by Richard Roper is Orion Fiction’s major debut launch for 2019. I was delighted to be asked to read the book and review it on my blog. The book deals with the themes of life and death. When describing the book to my husband I started referring to it as “my death book” but actually it is far more about how to live life well whilst we have it and how we can all forget how vital that is particularly when curveballs are thrown our way.
First impressions of Something to Live for
I read about 50 pages of the book and thought it was OK and well worth reading. Andrew is the main character in the book. I did not initially find the character particularly appealing but I did find the idea of his job fascinating. His role was to arrange paupers’ funerals and to search the deceased person’s home to see if loved ones /and or financial resources could be tracked down. I used to love watching programmes like Heir Hunters on the television so was ready to invest my time in the novel. Throughout the novel, we witness Andrew carry out several visits some to chaotic houses and some to well-organised ones. Every one is different because as we all know but sometimes forget, individuals are just that and all have their story to tell. Something I did like about Andrew from the start was how he quietly respected each individual attending the funerals even though this was not part of the job. I also got angry as I often do at how many old people in particular are so isolated with nobody to witness their frailties or to lend a helping hand. I hate this about the UK and think it does differ in other countries where communities are that much stronger. I am strongly resisting the urge to bang on about how we are now seeing the legacy of Margaret Thatcher and how horrific this is proving to be but this is a book review and not a political rant.
The truth about Andrew
Early in the novel we learn that Andrew has a public persona which contrasts strikingly with the reality of his circumstances. Andrew’s work colleagues are under the impression he is the head of a strong family unit living in a lovely home with a full life. In reality Andrew lives alone in basic accommodation with only his train sets and a railway online forum for company. I warmed a lot to Andrew as a character as I saw how he often struggled with social anxiety as I do myself. You can wonder if you are on the autistic spectrum, whether it is because of the circumstances of your birth or whatever but social anxiety is just rotten to cope with and holds you back in life. When Cameron, Andrew’s hapless boss suggests colleagues host “Come Dine With Me” style events Andrew starts to panic. Will his lies be exposed and if they are, what will be the consequences?
Friendship and love
As Andrew carries out his visits, he sometimes discovers clues as to who loved the deceased person or who they loved. There may be evidence of a lost romance or family connection. False friends may come out of the woodwork. As for Andrew, a new colleague becomes a friend catching him by surprise. Peggy was my favourite character in the book with her incorrigible sense of humour that cracks Andrew’s wall of armour little by little. Of course, Peggy is also an individual with her own struggles at home with a boozy husband and young children to guide through life. Peggy and Andrew find themselves pursuing a mystery from one of their house visits outside the working environment. Will the romantic story they discover lead to more passion in their own lives?
Something happens that means Andrew’s lies will be revealed. There is a powerful twist that I did not see coming at all that will reveal that lies are not always complete ones and not always told with bad intentions. We start to understand Andrew more and to remember that sometimes things happen that change our life’s course dramatically. As is so often the case, once we reveal our true selves and ask for support, people are there to give us friendship and love. The sad thing is that all those people who die alone with nobody around them probably did not need to do so had they reached out or if somebody had lent them their support because not everybody finds it easy to say what is really going on for them.
I thought the book was OK but it turned out to be one of my favourite reads of all time. There were multiple stories within the book as well as Andrew’s own. In fact, every deceased person featured could generate a new novel as we all could. We do all have our story to tell. Some of us tell it in our blogs. Some of us would be surprised how people view our life if we were ever to hear our eulogies. Ultimately we are better together in community and friendship than we are apart. Once we recognise that, there will always be something to live for.
Do you think you might read Something to Live for?
You might like to read another book review this time about The Pull of the Moon.