Clover Brooks has spent almost her whole life in the presence of death; maybe the time has come for her to live a little.
When she was 5, Clover witnessed her kindergarten teacher’s collapse, and then, when she was 6, her parents died in an accident while on vacation in China. Taken in by her maternal grandfather, she moved from Connecticut to New York City, where he raised her lovingly, if in some isolation. Now 36, she still lives in her grandfather’s West Village apartment, though he’s been dead for 13 years; works as a death doula; and counts as her only true friends her pets and her 87-year-old neighbor. Her work is emotionally challenging but rewarding; she holds the hands of the dying, then goes home to write down their last words in one of three journals: “Regrets,” “Advice,” or “Confessions.” Despite the loneliness of her life, Clover isn’t looking for a change, which is, naturally, when change finds her: first in the form of Sebastian, who asks her to spend time with his dying grandmother, and then in the form of Sylvie, who moves into the apartment downstairs. The grandmother, Claudia, turns out to be a spitfire: a former photojournalist, she left the love of her life behind when she married, and Clover, inspired by her energy and kindness, seeks closure to this tale, while also (maybe?) going on her first date ever with Sebastian and beginning a friendship with Sylvie. As she connects with others, she must also accept her lingering grief and guilt for her beloved grandfather’s death. There are so many opportunities for cliché here, and Brammer adroitly sidesteps them all. This is a beautiful tale of a vulnerable, compassionate woman who finds that, in order to care for others, she must also let herself be cared for. Even that cliché feels moving, rather than saccharine, in Brammer’s capable hands.
Walks the edge of sentimentality with poignant success.
Pub Date: May 9, 2023
Page Count: 320
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023