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Review: Death by Roses by Vivian Probst

Book Summary

For the first time in nearly thirty years of marriage, Art McElroy Sr. buys his headstrong, disapproving wife a dozen yellow roses. Hours later he discovers her lifeless body seated on the toilet. Mae Rose McElroy's sudden death leaves a void in her family and in the entire Midwestern farming community of Fairview. It's a void Mae Rose will attempt to fill, herself, from the hereafter by meddling directly in earthly affairs.

Mae Rose's meddling leads to her spiritual expulsion from heaven, and she winds up in the body of Mary Lee Broadmoor (Scary Mary), a crusty writer and director of exquisite horror movies. Mary Lee refuses to succumb to stage-4 pancreatic cancer until she gets one final shot at an elusive Oscar. Like Mae Rose, who argues with God for a return to earth, Mary Lee pleads, from her Hollywood deathbed, for more time to complete her work, as her hospice nurse, Gertie Morgan, looks on.

The two women's spirits work together, and Mae Rose provides her host with a new script idea: a love story, based on her life! The script earns Mary Lee her coveted Academy Award, but the movie's release shocks and disturbs Mae Rose's family. They set out to find, and confront, the woman who has somehow co-opted, and publicly revealed, their personal tragedy.

Along the way, new love emerges as the reader meets a caste of crazy, eccentric, but highly memorable characters. Death by Roses suggests that relationships don't end at death, but continue until their ultimate purpose is achieved. The universe has every resource at its disposal to get the job done. It also has an amazing sense of humor.


If this book is any indication of what life after death could be, than what a fantastic adventure to look forward to. Vivian Probst’s, Death by Roses, was one of those books that I am proclaiming hands downs a must read. Blending a beautifully created story with unforgettable characters and humor that will knock your off socks, the only disappointment for me was when the novel ended because I loved every moment of it. 

Such a beautiful message of second chances blended with a creative interpretation of life after death, the reader experience was exciting and fulfilling. There was never a dull moment and keeps you engaged from the first through the end. Definitely thought provoking in so many regards to life, beyond the humor, it really inspires you to live life everyday being conscience of not regretting what you do or feel to others because you may never get that chance to make it right again once either of you are gone.

Let me introduce and give you a little backstory to the book. The McElroys could be anyone you know. Art and Mae Rose have been married for thirty years, have two children, and live in a small community. While no one is perfect, Art made a decision that could’ve cost him everything but he should consider himself lucky that he didn’t lose everything and is able to experience a second chance, even though it might seem like he is experiencing the “wrath” of Mae Rose. Now, before you find out what happens you might consider Mae Rose’s personality a little rigid towards Art but I’ll leave it up to you to decide if giving Art a second chance by how he was treated was justified. 

Every relationship goes through its ups and downs, the quality of their marriage really met it challenges. After receiving great news at work, Art was inspired to do something to try and regain their lost love in the relationship. Inspired to do something that he hadn’t done in the entirety of their marriage, he failed miserably. Well, it’s the thought that counts.  On the way home, once one bad thing happens it seems like a domino effect, his good effort seemed to be misinterpreted by what had happened which turned into a huge fight that led them to that one regrettable moment for Art in life that leaves you thinking what if I go do over, I would change…

When you lose someone in a way that leaves you with regret, depending on your situation, it can take a while to come to terms and accept that you cannot change anything. Life might be difficult but for those who have either a spiritual or a faith based background, there usually comes that solace moment of confirmation that will give you that sign of affirmation to not carry that burden of regret any longer. While Mae Rose was living, she only lived life from her experience which could’ve been different if she made different choices. When she meets the afterlife, she finds herself in a situation where she could she could see what happened versus what could’ve happened and finds herself wanting to have her own do over. There are rules though but after breaking them, she loses this privilege by being banished and sent back to Earth in the form of a Mary Lee Broadmoar, a horror writer dying of cancer who wants one last chance to get an Oscar before she dies.  Between these two women, we are sent on a funny, heartwarming journey that shows us so much about life, love, relationships and getting second chances that make you appreciate how short life is and to live each moment knowing that it could be your last.

Overall, you have to experience this book for yourself. It is definitely worth the read and I feel both men and women will appreciate and take away some great insight that may bring a new perspective in your lives. This is great book that any reader or book group could really appreciate. The great plot, characters and the nonstop humor all come together for a fantastic read that will entertain and inspire you. 

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Pages: 320 pages
Publisher: SelectBooks (February 3, 2015)

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