BLOG POST: A Terrible Kindness

FACT: Warm, generous, wise authors can take you to terrible places; talented authors ensure you return home.   A TERRIBLE KINDNESS proves it.

Pre-publication, our wonderful Indie Alliance rep, Rosy, brought a proof copy to Red Lion Books saying, “This. You need to read this and you need to take my word for it because I don’t want the subject matter to put you off”.  When the subject is the 1966 Aberfan landslide you react.  You either walk away or you trust in the power of words.  The right words, written by the right author,  can guide you through unimaginable situations in unobtrusive and sensitive ways.  This is exactly what Jo Browning-Wroe does.

Her sensitivity to loss and grief must surely have come from her formative years spent around death.  Her father was superintendent of a crematorium and her family lived in a house on the grounds.   In her writing, Jo wanted to bring attention to the unsung work of the undertakers and embalmers she witnessed as a child.   Those who went about their job with a kindness that required daily acceptance of what most of us feel is unthinkable; despite its inevitability.

It was a genuine privilege to hear Jo speak about A TERRIBLE KINDNESS at Red Lion Books this evening.  This was an author event and yes, we spoke about the book but the subject matter naturally lent itself to deeper discussions – around how death affects those who are left behind; but also how relevant the living are.  How do we connect, relate or help each other?

Jo made an interesting point about how people’s reactions to grief (and those grieving) can be more of a struggle than to death itself.  What words do we use?  How do we comfort them? She has long observed those small, but not insignificant,  gestures from undertakers who are practised at stepping in when others step away.   The following quote comes from the book and encapsulates this sentiment.

When we go through something impossible, someone, or something, will help us, if we let them . . .

At Red Lion Books we hope customers trust our recommendation, as we trusted Rosy and Faber.  Yes,  A TERRIBLE KINDNESS takes you to the tragedy of 1966 and this is undeniably painful but please trust that Jo guides us back home.    From the tragedy, she finds hope and kindness.

A beautiful, character-led novel.  Thank you for writing it Jo and thank you for visiting Red Lion Books for such a special evening.


JO COLDWELL, 16th February 2022