Mrs Death Misses Death
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 . . .
Death is a woman. Death is no looming man with a black cloak and sharpened scythe. She is, in fact, a middle-class black woman many see in the street, pass by and promptly forget. But she sees everything, she keeps the world moving. She is a shape-shifter, a life taker but also a giver in her own way. She was there at the start of the world, along with her sister Life and lover, Time. She travels the world, she has met every kind of human. But now she is tired. And she needs to share her story.
Wolf Willeford knows Mrs Death. His first encountered with her as a boy is not something he has ever forgotten. That night his mother promised him the tooth fairy would come to take away the small treasure under his pillow. Instead, Mrs Death came to take his mother.
Orphaned, young Wolf was forced to live with his grandparents, harsh, cruel and unloving. He did not forget the women he saw that night as his home burnt. And she did not forget him. Now, fully grown, Wolf encounters her again. And tasks himself with writing her story, her memoirs, acknowledging her existence in a way no one else ever has. Her consciousness, her memories laid down on paper, from the first human being with flint and fire to modern day men and women with bleeping-devices stuck to their ears, all the knowledge in the world at their fingertips but who still know so very little. It’s Mrs Death’s time now. And she has a lot to say.
This book is written from the heart; it’s something you read but it’s also something you feel. One of the most poignant and powerful things I’ve ever come across. Passages stopped me in my tracks, like a runner in a race, only I was racing through these pages. Godden evokes thoughts and emotions I’ve experienced but not had the words to frame. Following Wolf and Mrs Death through time and space left me breathless.
I found myself taking photos of passages in the book, sending them to friends and family (making them promise to read this book), It’s beautiful. There is a very special message from the author at the end that touched me deeply. I won’t say what as I think it’s important to read this for yourself.
This is a blend of poetry, essays, stories. Beautiful-told and very accessible. It’s a ruminative exploration of guilt, regret, love, hope. It considers mental health, religion, sexuality, race, equality. And all so poetically and powerfully written. It’s moving and transportive. I devoured this in a day and now I’m on the hunt for the author’s other works. Genius!! Grab a copy for yourself and for everyone you know and love.
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About the Author
Salena Godden FRSL, is a high-profile poet based in London. She’s an activist, broadcaster, essayist and memoirist whose work has been widely anthologised. She has had several volumes of poetry published including ‘Pessimism is for Lightweights’ (Rough Trade Books) and a literary childhood memoir, ‘Springfield Road’ (Unbound). She has recorded several albums, most recently her spoken-word album ‘LIVEwire’ (Nymphs and Thugs) which was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award. Her poem ‘Pessimism is for Lightweights’ was donated to The Peoples History Museum in Manchester in February 2020 where it is now on permanent display. In November 2020 she was made a Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature. Her debut novel ‘Mrs Death Misses Death’ will be published by Canongate in January 2021, it has been described by the publisher as an “electrifying genre- and form-defying firestarter.” – http://www.salenagodden.co.uk
With thanks to Katie and Canongate for my gifted ARC, which I received in exchange for an honest review!