‘Death Wins a Goldfish’: What Would You Do With a Year Off?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Death Wins a Goldfish: Reflections From a Grim Reaper’s Yearlong Sabbatical. The title of this book is certainly intriguing. I mean, Death taking a sabbatical… Reminds me of the movie Meet Joe Black (and its original version, Death Takes a Holiday).

But this story is in book form, full of captivating illustrations, sweet story elements, and the endearing character of Death. Yes, I said “endearing.”

This masterpiece from author/illustrator Brian Rea follows Death through a yearlong sabbatical where Death explores the human existence. Before that, however, the book’s introduction lays the groundwork for the story, reminding us all to take some time off from work, from the usual hectic daily grind. It’s a book for anyone and everyone who works too hard, too much. This message really hits home with me, someone who works at home, is a freelancer, and is never really off duty. The book’s introduction set me in the right frame of mind to take in the body of the book; I definitely recommend not skipping it.

Throughout the year off, Death keeps a journal, many of whose entries we are privy to. The book is broken up into the months of the year, from January through December, from Death being informed by HR that vacation days must be spent through Death’s return to work. Each month shows different parts of regular human life that Death tries. Riding roller coasters, winning a goldfish at a carnival (who is Death’s companion from then on), watching Netflix, being a tourist, going on dates, lounging in the pool…

Death notices the little things in life, but also the larger, intangible things. Death gets a glimpse of the life that the people who are brought to the other side get to live before dying.

The book’s artwork is deceptively simple and casual; there is more meaning built into each image than you might think at first glance. So take your time with this book. Study the pages. Look for the extra storytelling that is built into the illustrations. Pay attention to Death’s metaphorical journey throughout the year off.

Then consider your own needs. Most of us can’t just take a year off of work, away from our usual life. But maybe we can work in a few days here and there, or create new boundaries that provide time for us to reflect on who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. Time to recalibrate.

We could all take a page out of Death’s book (literally, in this case). As Brian Rea says in the introduction, remember this: there are finish lines to our lifetimes. Let’s make the most of life while we’re still here.

Death Wins a Goldfish is available starting today. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs to take life a little slower, who needs to be reminded to smell the flowers now and then. (This is a book for adults, but it is mostly appropriate for children as well. Still, there are a couple of spots that are adult-themed. So pre-read before sharing with your kids!)

Note: I received this book for review purposes, but my fear of death and my stress-induced migraines are all my own.

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