“If you have ever wondered how you might cope were sudden death to visit your family, this is the book for you”
In a society as deeply in denial about dying as ours is, even a so-called ‘good’ death, a timely end to a long life well-lived, can be difficult to accept and accommodate. So how much worse a sudden death in the prime of life? The extinction of a young man at the age of 37? That was the fate of Lucie Brownlee’s husband, Mark. He collapsed and died instantly as the couple were about to make love, with the deliberate intention of making her pregnant. Mark’s last words to Lucie were the humorous and affectionate: ‘You’ve left your socks on’. Next moment, he was gone.
‘Sudden death is rude,’ Lucie writes in this true-life account of her marriage and her mourning. ‘It just wanders in and takes your husband without any warning; it doesn’t even have the decency to knock.’
Almost as soon as her beloved Mark died, Lucie began writing a blog about her feelings and experiences in the aftermath. It was her way of trying to make sense of what seemed a completely senseless event. Life After You is the result, a warm, moving and often extremely funny account of how she and her small daughter gradually came to terms with catastrophe. It is brutally frank in places, too – certain doctors, therapists and funeral directors come out very badly indeed – but if you have ever wondered how you might cope were sudden death to visit your family, this is the book for you.
“Lucie Brownlee writes with enormous honesty and self-awareness”
‘He crashed on to the pillow next to me, heavy as a felled oak. Our daughter, B, appeared in the doorway, woken up by the screaming – I must have been screaming but I don’t remember – and I told her the ultimate adult lie, that everything was all right.’
Lucie Brownlee writes with enormous honesty and self-awareness and as Richard says, she doesn’t take any prisoners. If those around her screwed up in the days after Mark’s death, she lets them know now, although usually with a touch of forgiving humour. The callow youth of a limo driver taking her and her parents to Mark’s funeral, for example.
‘He wore a peaked cap three times too big for his head. He’d been listening to Smooth FM while he waited for us, and we were serenaded by ‘When the Going Gets Tough’ by Billy Ocean until, a hundred yards down the road, Dad shouted:’ Music OFF!’
Lucie is very, very good at communicating the utter disbelief the gripped her after her husband’s death. She grew weary of condolences, because she didn’t want what had just happened to be true. ‘I wanted Mark, like Bobby on Dallas, to come walking out if the shower and for it all to have been a dream. I believed He would, too.’
(When referring to Mark, Lucie always capitalises Him and His. It’s very touching, denoting as it does loss and respect).
Life After You is a triumph; never mawkish or sentimental or self-pitying, but not pointlessly ‘brave’ either. Lucie tells it like it was, and a lot of the time it was bloody awful. But her irreverence and perceptiveness carried her – and carry us – through the blackest days. Now, two years on, she writes that she ‘wants to live’.
And we want that for Lucie too.
Here are a selection of the reviews for Life After You
“The story brims with charm, courage and wit…at times hysterical; heartbreaking at others, this is a wonderful book that has you cheering on its very likeable, funny and talented heroine as she moves from despair to a kind of hope”
“Raw, riveting and beautifully written…much recommended”