Books featuring a sibling with a mental illness

Book Review: Not Dead Yet

Author: Hayley Walsh (2022)
Genre: Contemporary fiction, uplit

Warning: this review contains spoilers.

Recently widowed Mary feels something needs to change, but she is not sure what? She decides to sell her home in Sydney, and move to a retirement village in sunny Queensland. Mary has always enjoyed her own company and struggles with the many personalities she encounters in the village. There are two things Mary won’t tolerate. Idiots, and nasty women. Unfortunately for her, the village is full of them. Has Mary made a mistake, or will she find something wonderful?

This novel reminded me a little of The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village in that it sought to reframe the later years of life as an opportunity, as a joyous time rather than a sad one. In this review, I’ll discuss the parts that I particularly enjoyed as well as some plot points/characters of which  I’d like to have seen more.

Not Dead Yet had a great cast of characters and touched on some significant themes. I wasn’t expecting the novel to be told from multiple points of view and it was interesting to read about Mary’s adult children, Michael and Melanie, and how their lives intersected with hers. Mary’s best friend, Barbara, was also a significant part of the plot and allowed Walsh to explore another societal issue. Barbara, who lived in Queensland and was part of the reason Mary moved there, confessed that she’d been in a relationship with a woman called Yvonne and had been too scared to come out about it. Mary reassured her friend that it changed nothing between them and in this way, Walsh demonstrated the impact of shifting societal attitudes towards the LGBTQIA+ community. Additionally, there was a plot twist that took me completely by surprise and which I think was done really well, to do with Mary’s neighbour, Gertrude. As well as all these excellent elements, I found myself pondering a few things I think could have been done differently.   

There were a few parts where I wish the novel had delved a little deeper. For instance, Michael and Felicity’s connection felt a little rushed. There was so much build up to Mary’s reunion with Neil, so much backstory about the connection they had when they were young that I would have liked more than half a page devoted to it. However, on the whole I enjoyed reading this novel. It was written in an accessible, engaging way, and I zoomed through it.

(I couldn’t write a review of this book without mentioning the cover. When I saw it on Twitter, it caught my eye immediately. Gorgeous colours and the digital drawing of Bonnie poking her head into the frame was adorable!)

Hayley Walsh has created a fun read and a meaningful story about some of the triumphs and tribulations of aging.    

Thank you to the author for providing me with an ARC of this novel.

You can buy a copy of Not Dead Yet from the Kindle store.

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