April 12, 2018 • Cee • Reviews

What To Do When I’m Gone: A Mother’s Wisdom to Her Daughter by Suzy Hopkins & Hallie Bateman • April 3, 2018 • Bloomsbury
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A mother’s advice to her daughter—a guide to daily living, both practical and sublime—with full-color illustrations throughout.

One sleepless night while she was in her early twenties, illustrator/writer Hallie Bateman had a painful realization: Someday, her mother would be gone. The prospect was devastating, and also scary—how would she navigate the world without the person who gave her life? She thought about all the motherly advice she would miss—advice that could help her through the challenges to come, including the ordeal of losing a parent.

The next day, Hallie asked her mother, writer Suzy Hopkins, to record step-by-step instructions for her to follow in the event of her mom’s death. The list began: “Pour yourself a stiff glass of whiskey and make some fajitas” and continued from there, addressing issues great and small—from choosing a life partner to baking a quiche. The project became a way for mother and daughter to discuss everyday realities with humor, openness, and gratitude. It led to this book.

Combining Suzy’s witty and heartfelt advice with Hallie’s quirky and colorful style, What to Do When I’m Gone is the illustrated instruction manual for getting through life without one’s mom. It’s also a poignant look at loss, love, and taking things one moment at a time. By turns whimsical, funny, touching, and pragmatic, it will leave readers laughing and teary-eyed. And it will spur conversations that enrich family members’ understanding of one another.


I received this book for free from Bloomsbury for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

First sentence: “The day I die will go something like this…”

What To Do When I’m Gone is a difficult book to read.

Not because the wisdom that’s passed down from Suzy Hopkins, the mother, to her illustrator daughter, Hallie Bateman, but because it makes me think of the mortality of my mom and the inevitability that she won’t always be around.

Ever since my dad’s passing, I’ve been infinitely more worried about my mom. I know that one day, she’ll no longer be on this Earth—this is so difficult for me to type out—but it’s something I try not to think about because I’m not emotionally ready for that. I get a panic in my soul, and my body seizes up in fear.

What To Do When I’m Gone tries to work through the inevitability of a parent’s death day by day—what to do when they’re gone. Each day, there are advice and activities to do—that are very special for the author’s family—like recipes for pecan pie or a quiche, going out to a late night diner with a good friend and talk, throw things when you want to (but clean it up), jump on a trampoline so that you get so tired you’ll stop thinking, or “replace” her with a supportive group of people because life happens and they’ll be taken away by their work or new relationships. It discusses the struggles the daughter will face like falling in love, heartbreak, starting a family, and being unhappy with work. It tries to address all the things that will happen and prepare you. 

This book is full of love and humor that overflows from the pages. Death is inevitable, and yes, you’ll hurt for a long time, but life will go on. Talk about it with friends or to your mother (even if she’s gone, she’s always listening.) These wisdoms will hopefully help you carry on.

Should you read What To Do When I’m Gone? Yes. Also, hug your mom and tell her you love her.


One Response to “REVIEW • Wisdoms from A Mother (What To Do When I’m Gone by Suzy Hopkins & Hallie Bateman)”

  1. Tasya says:

    This book sounds really good. Parents’ death are never easy and as much as I don’t want to think about it, it’s an inevitable event. I’m adding this to my TBR now, thanks for sharing Cee! Also, I hope everything is better now *hugs*

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