What to Do When I’m Gone: A Mother’s Wisdom to Her Daughter by Suzy Hopkins and Hallie Bateman

While looking back over what I read in 2022, I realized that I only read one nonfiction title. This year, I decided that I’m going to read more nonfiction. The perfect way to ease myself into nonfiction? Graphic novels! My first nonfiction read of 2023, What to Do When I’m Gone: A Mother’s Wisdom to Her Daughter by Suzy Hopkins and Hallie Bateman, is a beautifully writter, yet incredibly sad graphic memoir written and illustrated by a mother/daughter duo.

Hallie Bateman is an illustrator/writer, while her mother Suzy Hopkins is also a writer. When Hallie was in her early twenties, she was kept up late one night after realizing that one day her mom would die. Devastated and wanting a way to gather all the motherly advice that she would miss, Hallie came up with a plan. She asked her mom Suzy to write down step-by-step instructions for her to follow after her death. Her mother laughed, but then said yes and began writing.

Suzy started by saying that Hallie needed to walk away from her phone after her death, then ‘pour yourself a stiff glass of whiskey and make some fajitas’. Suzy’s advice walks Hallie through the days, weeks, months, and years after her loss. The advice, guidance, and support she supplies throughout is at times funny, but also heart-wrenching. She talks about issues of all sizes, from how to cook certain recipes to how to choose a life partner. As they worked together making this grpahic novel, they discussed a wide variety of everyday issues with open minds and open hearts.

While I enjoyed the juxtapoisiton of Suzy’s advice with Hallie’s colorful art style, the topics discussed had me tearing up. The format of this book was a unique take on processing grief. It’s essentially a years-long instruction manual for getting through life without your mom. It was a quick read, but one that had me laughing and crying at various points throughout. As soon as I finished, I started my own list of questions that I wanted to talk to my family and friends about while they’re still living.

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