Finding the Best Way to Say Goodbye
The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett
By: Annie Lyons
For all of you readers who loved A Man Called Ove; this is the book for you. In many ways, this week’s selection, The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett reminded me of A Man Called Ove. Like Ove, Eudora Honeysett is an 85-year-old woman who has come to the end of her life. She simply has had it with life and she is ready to join her loved ones in whatever comes next.
At the beginning of the book, we know that Eudora has decided to organize an assisted death in Switzerland. She wants to die on her own terms because after watching her mother die an undignified death in a hospital, she has decided it was a terrible way to go. Eudora doesn’t want to spend her last days with tubes in her nose, machines, and doctors all around. There is no peace or dignity in this type of death. Eudora wants to plan her death and she wants it to be a serene and enlightening experience.
I am sure you’re wondering how I could recommend a book like this in the midst of a global pandemic when the death toll is nearing 300,000, but I promise that this is an uplifting and humorous book about getting old and dying. Only the British can find a humorous way to write about an octogenarian’s plan to die
Eudora Honeysett is an ornery old woman, who lives in southeast London. Eudora lives all alone except for her cat Montgomery. From the first page, you are endeared to Eudora and her quirky ways. Why is she so ornery? Why does she seem to dislike everyone, especially those who do not address her as Ms. Honeysett? You see, Eudora has had it with life, she is just done. And slowly, as the story goes on, you get bits and pieces of her earlier life through flashbacks and you start to understand why Eudora is so grumpy and so utterly alone.
At the start of the novel, Eudora’s musings are usually about how annoyed she is with everything. She is constantly bothered by the loud people around her, the changing of the neighborhood, and the ill-mannered younger generation. Eudora’s mind is as sharp as ever, and her memories clearly display this. But her body is starting to become slower and she is so tired all the time. Without family around, she finds no reason to go on living and certainly no need to die an undignified death in the back of an ambulance like her neighbor down the lane.
Once Eudora has her plan, she feels lighter. And she is happy to live her last few grouchy weeks in solitude. This all seems to be a sensible plan until new neighbors move next door. Having lived in her house her entire life, Eudora has had 10 or 11 neighbors in the house next door, but this neighbor is different. This family has a precocious 10-year-old named Rose and little does Eudora know but Rose will change her life.
From the moment Rose moves in – she is bossy, and nosy and shows up unannounced to Eudora’s doorstep. All things that Eudora has little tolerance for. And yet, Rose somehow breaks through to Eudora in her charmingly annoying way. Rose is loud in every sense of the word. She wears very bright colors, loves to bedazzle everything, loves to make special “cordials” at Eudora’s during teatime, and most importantly Rose loves Montgomery the cat. And much to Eudora’s surprise, her grouchy cat loves Rose back.
Rose slowly gets Eudora to come out of her shell. Eudora can’t help but be taken by the vivacious and brilliant girl who is wise beyond her years. Before she knows what’s happening, Eudora is going swimming with Rose, going to the seashore for ice-cream with Rose, and even befriends another older man from the neighborhood named Stanley with Rose. The threesome start to spend a lot of time together and for the first time in a long time, Eudora is having fun.
Eudora also begins to realize that life isn’t so bad after all. She is excited to get up in the morning and she finds that she has a purpose for getting up. Her new purpose is to help Rose find her way in her new school. Maggie, Rose’s mother, tells Eudora that Rose was bullied in her old school and has a hard time relating to children her own age. Rose clearly prefers the company of adults. Eudora finds that she must help Rose, which becomes her new mission.
Through flashbacks you start to understand what happened in Eudora’s earlier life. The countless disappointments, regrets, and heartbreaks Eudora experienced contributed to her grumpiness and regrets. This all changes when she meets Rose and Stanley. When she finds happiness and a purpose, she asks herself if she can be happy or does she have to continue to suffer from the sorrows of her earlier life. Is 85 years old the time to start living? And now that she finally has something to live for, is it enough to change her mind about dying?
I urge you to read this surprisingly uplifting book about aging and death. You will come to love all three main characters in this novel because believe me, they are all characters. Lyons descriptions of her characters are unique, wonderful, and at times hilarious and as the reader, you will empathize with them. You also come to understand that each character has their own uphill battle to fight. Whether it be Stanley suffering from the death of his wife, Ada. Rose and her lack of friends her own age, or Eudora who grapples with ghosts of her past. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring book. When I finished reading it, I was motivated to go out and do nice things for other people. This book inspired me to be a better person and live the best possible life, which is why it is the perfect read for the holidays. I hope you will enjoy getting to know Eudora as much as I did.
The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett
By: Annie Lyons
Publication Date: September 8, 2020