Mrs Death has had enough. She is exhausted from spending eternity doing her job and now she seeks someone to unburden her conscience to. Wolf Willeford, a troubled young writer, is well acquainted with death, but until now hadn’t met Death in person – a black, working-class woman who shape-shifts and does her work unseen.
Enthralled by her stories, Wolf becomes Mrs Death’s scribe, and begins to write her memoirs. Using their desk as a vessel and conduit, Wolf travels across time and place with Mrs Death to witness deaths of past and present and discuss what the future holds for humanity. As the two reflect on the losses they have experienced – or, in the case of Mrs Death, facilitated – their friendship grows into a surprising affirmation of hope, resilience and love. All the while, despite her world-weariness, Death must continue to hold humans’ fates in her hands, appearing in our lives when we least expect her . . .
I’m coming at you with another debut novel that again is totally unique and special.
As you can see from the synopsis, Death is not a grim reaper here – not an old white man in a cape. It’s an older black woman.
Along with Wolf, the other main character in this story, they take a journey together through time.
Wolf has a tragic start in life and as a result, has locked herself away and suffering from grief. In her depressed state she is writing away feverishly and almost obsessively. Death visits her as a young girl and when tragedy strikes she looks up and sees her face. As we join her later, the story takes an unusual turn as they become companions for as while.
I loved the unique way in which this books is interspersed with poetry. You can certainly see Salena is a renowned poet. The poetry captures so many emotions through the story. We are taken through history and look at some well known figures and how they meet their end. It takes on totally new perspectives that I had never thought of.
It’s not an easy read. Obviously the subject is death and there are some pretty grim and gruesome parts! I felt desperation and helplessness while reading the ends of these lives played out.
Equally there were words that just blew me away. Death is the subject but this is also about life and hope and living to the fullest. These words in particular really got me thinking:
“It is borrowed time. One by one we leave each other. We never know who might go next and when and where and why. I’ve often wondered how very different this living life would be if we were born with our expiry dates stamped on our foreheads…I mean, if we knew exactly how long and little time we have left to love each other, maybe then we would all be more kind and more loving.”
Powerful stuff right?
This for me, is a novel brimming with truth, words to make you think about the gift of life. About how to live it a little bit more intentionally and to cherish what you have.
A totally original novel and a stunning debut.
It’s out tomorrow and more details are here.
Many thanks to Canongate for my gifted copy.
Until next time,