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The Collected Regrets of Clover by Mikki Brammer

Clover is a death doula, a solitary occupation which gives her a unique insight into the distilled regrets of the recently living. While she moves from client to client, Clover collects the final thoughts of her recently deceased clients into a collection of journals – Regrets, Advice and Confessions. Between entries, Clover’s journals remain unopened on the bookshelf; and her own life appears to be lived without the benefit of the wealth of unique information she has acquired.

Clover has always lived her life with older people. She was a solitary child whose academic parents often left her in the company of an elderly woman while they pursued their preferred occupations on numerous overseas excursions. When they died suddenly while in China, Clover is in her first year of school, immersed in the romantic world of books. She is unexpectedly plucked from her quiet life in rural Tasmania and taken to live with her maternal grandfather in his New York apartment.

Thrust into an adult world from an early age, Clover becomes used to the company of just a few older people: mostly a bookseller and her building’s concierge. She also becomes pre-occupied with death, which leads to her unusual career choice. The term doula is mostly associated with those assisting mothers as they give birth. Clover assists people at the other end of their lives, as they transition to death. This preoccupation becomes even more pressing when Clover’s grandfather dies, and she inherits all that was his. Surrounded by his things, and having never developed a style or true identity of her own, Clover’s life becomes even more solitary and frozen.

Between clients, Clover lives in an antiquated setting, desperately trying to honour her grandfather’s memory by holding on to everything he owned. She is so stuck in her narrow existence that she cannot see her own predicament, despite having access to such rare insights as she has obtained through her work with the dying.

When new people enter her life, Clover at first resists their entreaties to live a fuller life. She thinks she is content until her most inspirational client yet helps Clover to see that there is so much more to living than she has previously understood from the dying.

The Collected Regrets of Clover is a unique and wonderful book, full of well-rounded characters and packed brimful with insights which everyone should have as they negotiate the all too short time allocated for us all between birth and death.

Reviewed by Peta Stavelli

Penguin Random House


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