“What’s the point of giving someone a beautiful death if you can’t give yourself a beautiful life?”
A young girl is plucked from one path in life and placed onto another when her parents die and she moves in with her grandfather. Shortly thereafter, she witnesses the death of a teacher and is so ushered along this path towards the duties of a death doula. She helps some people, some people help her, things end well.
I picked this up thinking it would be a bit darker than it actually was. The main, Clover, is a death doula in the city. She is calm, poised, and appears to be at ease with her very solitary life. Raised by her grandfather, she has a rich inner life that Brammer brings to life well with short asides into her day-to-day (spying on neighbors, obsessive 90s romance film watching). It starts off with her attending “death cafes”, or sort of anonymous meetings where folks discuss death. She meets a guy who gives her the ick a bit, and we are shunted to a past romance where her naivete was well written second hand cringe.
So, I thought- really believed, in the first half of the book-
I really thought we were going to be dealing with her dealing with a weirdo who out-weirds her. The slow build up of her oddities was giving Black Swan vibes, especially when she begins to make friends (in that uncomfy crushy way – like maybe this isn’t a reality that most would say is normal, rather, her reality which we are being led to see is somewhat warped) with a young lady who moves into her apartment building.
But nah, it was mostly a romance? A weak coming of age? It was good, a nice quickerish read, but ultimately it’s about a weird girl who has a weird job, gets told to live life to the fullest, then meets a way too easily hot and accessible man at the end.
She provides doula service to the ick-man’s grandma, and he turns out to not be so much ick as just a normal flawed male character as she realizes she isn’t into him. Grandma was a former belle of life, a Katherine Hepburn type sorta kinda. Grandma recollects some regrets of falling in love with someone and never telling them, Clover decides to look for former love, finds him dead but his beautiful grandson is still alive, and charming as well. Grandma dies, Clover -neatly- no longer has to deal with ick-guy, -neatly- has the ability to travel for three months independently and has somehow -neatly- intrigued beautiful grandson into sort of wanting to be with her.
There were layers of course; she’s a death doula because her grandfather died alone, she’s self reflective and aware, significant characters make her realize that while death is a constant, she doesn’t have to live like it… it was as if her death doula self was just a phase, a very long phase, in response to her grandfather’s death.
Ultimately this read felt like a beach read? It was kind of too neat, too easy… maybe it is destined for some kind of Netflix limited series or movie? Big sigh. I will give credit where due- Brammer makes a beautiful life for her girl at the end of The Collected Regrets of Clover.
Would recommend for someone with a soggy weekend on their hands (or at the beach), a young person who feels older than they are, or an angsty 13 year old who wants to be dark but you know, and they know, it is just a phase.