Support groups of all shapes and sizes
Pictured above: One of Jacqueline Bublitz's favourite photos of her late father, 'Johnny B'
OCTOBER 3, 2021
Support groups of all shapes and sizes
Death in Print: Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz, Meet: Author Jacqueline Bublitz, Death on Screen: 'Dead to Me' TV series
Listen to Episode 2 on the following podcast platforms
Or, if you've already listened to the show, scroll down for more info and links . . .
Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz
Before You Knew My Name book cover
Photo by Leio
Photo by Shifaaz
Before You Knew My Name opens with two very different women – 18 year old American Alice Lee and 30-something Australian Ruby – moving to New York City. While at first they appear to have little in common, we soon learn that they both feel lost and lonely in the city and we gradually discover how men have mistreated them both. Then, while out jogging one day, Ruby discovers a body on the edge of the Hudson River and it turns her world upside down.

Ruby is still suffering post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when she decides she needs to ‘seek out other finders of the dead’. She goes to trauma support group (which proves to be an ill fit) where she meets Lennie, who introduces her to Death Club.

You might have heard of death cafes – which are meetings where people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death – and Death Club is a bit like this although it’s a smaller, more exclusive gathering of very different people who come together because they’ve been impacted by death in some way. Lennie is an embalmer at a funeral home, Josh came very close to dying in a cycling accident and Sue, the the giver of unsolicited advice, had a daughter who was killed in a car crash. When Ruby joins Death Club they quickly become a tight-nit group of four and Before You Knew My Name becomes a study of friendship and how it fledges.

But it’s so much more than that. Our first person narrator is Alice in the afterlife, who makes various attempts to make contact with Ruby and steer the Death Club’s conversations in a certain direction. As the story unfolds, we learn more of Alice’s backstory – what brought her to New York – and Ruby’s gradual awakening about herself and an old relationship, with a new romance thrown into the mix.
Meet Jacqueline Bublitz
New Zealander Jacqueline (‘Rock’) Bublitz is a writer, feminist, and arachnophobe. She wrote her debut novel Before You Knew My Name after spending a summer in New York, where she hung around morgues and the dark corners of city parks (and the human psyche) far too often.

After many years of living and working in Melbourne, Jacqueline returned to her beloved hometown, New Plymouth, where she now lives and writes full-time. She is now working on her second novel, where she continues to explore the grand themes of love, loss and connection, and the ways we recover from our darkest moments.

In Episode 2, we talk about the book as well as Rock's personal experiences of death and grief how they informed her storytelling.

Jacqueline Bublitz nominated 'A Place in the Sun' by Stevie Wonder as a song she would like played at her funeral or wake. Listen to the song in our 'Farewell songs' playlist.
'Dead to Me' TV series
'Dead to Me' opens with a hotheaded widow called Jen (played by Christina Applegate) searching for the hit-and-run driver who mowed down her husband when she meets Judy (who is played by Linda Cardellini) at a grief support group.

Jen is a real estate agent and 'functional alcoholic' who is determined not only to find who who killed her husband, Steve, but decides that getting a stop sign installed at the corner where he was killed will somehow make her feel better.

Judy at first appears to be an innocent, somewhat naive and eccentric optimist but it soon becomes apparent she has a secret or two.

And it's telling that the actor who plays Jen's dead husband, James Marsden, is listed as one of the key cast members.

Without giving away any spoilers – and this show is full of plot twists . . . increasingly absurd plot twists – this story is, at its heart, about female friendship and what we do to distract ourselves in order to avoid feeling pain. Jen uses all of the typical coping mechanisms – alcohol being right up there – and steadfastly refuses to embrace the opportunities presented in the support group to reflect and examine her own inner life.

It’s also often laugh out loud funny. The scriptwriting is tight and inventive. There’s lots of subtext without too many subplots. Unlike other whodunnit crime series, we do not move methodically through cast members, seeing them set up as the killer, and it’s delightfully free of red herrings. 'Dead to Me' is a deep dive into two characters and if you, like me, love Jen and Judy then you’ll love this show.
Series 1 and 2 are both available on Netflix and in July 2020, the series was renewed for a third and final season although production has stalled.

In August 2021, in the midst of filming, star Christina Applegate announced on Twitter that she was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, or MS.

She tweeted, "A few months ago I was diagnosed with MS. It's been a strange journey. But I have been so supported by people that I know who also have this condition. It's been a tough road. But as we all know, the road keeps going. Unless some asshole blocks it."