His Greatest Gift
A Terrible Kindness by Jo Browning Wroe is an absolutely heartbreaking historical tale that surrounds the terrible Aberfan disaster of 21st October 1966.
The novel begins and ends (7 years later) in Aberfan. Aberfan was a defining moment in nineteen year old William’s life as he volunteered (for his first job) as an embalmer there. It was a job he did with quiet kindness, wanting the children to look their best for their parents.
“Keep your head down and your heart hard. That’s your kindness” was the advice William was given by those older than him. Those few days were to haunt William in his waking and his sleeping, as he could not escape the sights he saw. Those sights would direct his thoughts and beliefs for years.
Sandwiched between the two trips to Aberfan the reader hears of William’s early years as a choir boy at Cambridge from 1956. “Coming to hear us sing is like being hugged by God.” There is power in song, as William would find out in later life. We also hear of his life as an embalmer from 1966 onwards.
The reader instinctively likes William. He is quietly kind and it is this kindness that oozes from every pore as people are attracted to his character. He walks through life amongst others as a silent angel.
The whole book is beautifully written. There are terrible, awful scenes at Aberfan but what shines through is the kindness – of William and of others. I particularly liked Betty who did what she did because of kindness and compassion.
A Terrible Kindness will make you cry but it will also fill your heart with love and kindness as you witness the gift that many gave to a broken community on that October morning in 1966.
I received a free copy via Net Galley. A favourable review was not required. All opinions are my own.