Dealing with death can be soul-crushing, or painfully awkward for those who don’t know what to do next. And haven’t we all at some point in our lives wondered how we’d react to losing someone close to us? Like a parent or partner? In the graphic novel ‘What To Do When I’m Gone – A Mother’s Wisdom To Her Daughter’, artist Hallie Bateman collaborates with her mom Suzy Hopkins, on a step-by-step guide to how she should cope with the latter’s death.
The thing about this book is… well, it’s interesting no doubt, quite poignant in parts, but all of it is meant for a very specific reader – Hallie Bateman, the illustrator. Throughout the graphic novel, Suzy Hopkins charts out how her daughter should carry on with her life, giving her advice, tips, family recipes and sometimes very generic wisdom. Like on ‘Day 1’, mom recommends making Fajitas, for ‘Day 5’ it’s cleaning the house, for ‘Day 12’ it’s watching a blockbuster film, stuff like that. Some of us watch a blockbuster film pretty much very second day, don’t need our mom suggesting that. Anyway…
Bateman’s illustrations are simple and flow fluidly with the text. While the book wasn’t relatable (for me), it did make me think about my relationship with my mother and how life might seem without her sunny concern over what I am up to. It made me glad that despite living miles apart, we talk every day, share common interests and don’t have a strained/awkward relationship. This then is a good book to pick up for those who still have their moms around; because buying this after losing a parent might just make someone more miserable if they don’t find the content relatable. It’s not advice from your mom and someone else’s words can never be able to comfort you when you are consumed by grief.
I wasn’t a fan of all the family recipes that were peppered throughout, they didn’t interest me at all. And while in the beginning it seemed like the novel will continue to be a day-by-day account of things to do, the author soon starts skipping days, then weeks, then years, so surprisingly, the ‘guide’ goes on till ‘Day 20,000’. So things come to a full circle, with death being a dominant theme, but there’s a lot of focus on the little joys of life. From handling a shitty job, relationships, marriage, kids, the mother tries to cover as much ground for her daughter, so there’s isn’t a complete void when she’s truly gone. I really liked the last few pages, they are tender and capture maternal love in a beautiful manner. For Hallie Bateman, this is a treasure, for other readers… well, it really depends on who is reading.
It’s a 3/5 from me.
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Ep 64 – 15 Random but Great Book Recommendations