Delia is dying. She has breast cancer, which has recurred several times and is now slowly bringing her to the end of her life. She's the mother to two young daughters, she has a husband who adores her, and she is a popular advice columnist, but she has resigned herself to the inevitablility of her death and she is getting prepared. Delia has some loose ends to tie up from her past, she wants to prepare special mementos for her daughters and husband, and last but not least, she is writing a guide to dying. As the author of such popular works such as The Household Guide to Laundry and The Household Guide to Lawn Care, she wants her final work to be called The Household Guide to Dying. So, Delia begins to write her book, but she also attempts to come to terms with her tragic past and to prepare her children for a future that doesn't include their mother.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. However, the writing style confused and annoyed me to the point that I wasn't able to enjoy it. The plot has a lot of potential to be both funny and sad, yet it fell short for me. My main complaint was that the book covers several different time periods. It covers Delia's distant past, it covers her present as she edges towards death, and it covers a period of time from her recent past, as Delia sets out to find some things out about her distant past. The writing switches from one time period to another with absoultely no indication to the reader which time period is being covered. Dates would have helped. At least I wouldn't have started reading a chapter, only to find out that a different time period was being covered than the one that I thought was. To make thise situation worse, snippets from Delias advice column are thrown in there willy-nilly, adding very little to the book in general.
My other problem was with Delia. For a dying woman, I had a hard time feeling empathy for her. I tried to, but her personality came across as cold and detatched, and I just couldn't get myself worked up about her inevitible demise.
That being said, I loved the ending of the book. This was one part that I thought was done particularly well. It wasn't a weepy ending, but it definitely got to you, in a quiet way. All in all, unless you can endure the writing style, I would give "The Household Guide to Dying" a miss. It had potential, but just didn't measure up for me.