By Lily Brown & Emily Dean
I have listened to Emily Dean on Frank Skinner’s Radio Show every Saturday morning for the past few years and I have really enjoyed hearing snippets of information about her eccentric upbringing and about her cute dog, Raymond. When I heard that she had written a book I decided to give it a try as a break from the books on the reading list for my PhD research. However, nothing prepared me for the rollercoaster of emotions I went through while reading it. The book is beautifully written and is extremely honest, Dean does not sugarcoat either her upbringing or the losses of her sister, mother and father in quick succession. The book strikes the perfect balance between exploring the sadness of grief and the humour which came with growing up with a mother who was an actress and a father who would quote poetry in response to almost every problem.
I think being a fan of the Frank Skinner Show, on which Dean is co-host, meant that I appreciated the parts of the book which included Frank and the impact that he had on her life. I also recognised some of the stories she has told over the years about her parents and her childhood and I felt that I was in on some of the jokes. There are heartbreaking moments as she describes how she navigates the last days of her sister’s life and the pain of their father leaving the family, however these are interspersed with tales of parties in exotic locations and with funny moments from her childhood including her skirt being ripped off by a dog!
I devoured the book in a mere 48 hours, wanting to reach the section of the book where she meets Raymond, her long wished for canine companion. I think it is interesting how she uses pets, and dogs in particular, as a thread to mark the different stages of her story. She has avoided getting a dog herself, not seeing herself as part of a ‘dog family‘ but her realisation that this can come in many shapes and sizes means that by the end of the book she is part of her very own ‘dog family,’ a beautiful ending to the book and beginning to her life as a person who has gone through a lot but come out the other side.
“The book resonated with me on a number of levels as it not only deals with grief but with parental separation, family dynamics and with the expectations that people put on themselves to fit into certain roles within both their own family and in society.”
Dean speaks with candour about seeking therapy and attending a retreat to tackle her ongoing struggle with feeling ‘unlovable.’ She also acknowledges that recovering from grief and from other issues people face is an ongoing process, that it takes time and that it is alright to have setbacks on the journey. I think her approach to therapy and the way in which she normalises it is so important and may help others to seek out support. At times the book can be hard to read as she describes in detail the impacts of her losses and the raw emotions surrounding the deaths of all of her immediate family members within three years. However, overall the book strikes a positive note and you feel that the she must have felt a sense of catharsis in writing this book. I would definitely recommend reading Everybody Died, So I Got a Dog, although you may also want to buy some tissues!