Mrs Death Misses Death

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Pub Date 28 Jan 2021 | Archive Date 28 Jan 2021

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Mrs Death tells her intoxicating story in this life-affirming fire-starter of a novel

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 . . .

Mrs Death tells her intoxicating story in this life-affirming fire-starter of a novel

Mrs Death has had enough. She is exhausted from spending eternity doing her job and now she seeks someone to...

Advance Praise

'In this timely and exquisite meditation on breath and its best rhyme, we see a stunning performance poet crowding all the energy, wisdom, passion and laughs of her live work into the solid ingot of this astounding novel, as profound as Cohen, as playful as Brautigan. Salena Goddess, more like '
ALAN MOORE, author of Watchmen

'In this timely and exquisite meditation on breath and its best rhyme, we see a stunning performance poet crowding all the energy, wisdom, passion and laughs of her live work into the solid ingot of...

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ISBN 9781838851194
PRICE £14.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 121 members

Featured Reviews

Mrs Death Misses Death is a transformative, thought-provoking novel that looks at death, storytelling, and what really matters in the world. Mrs Death has spent eternity doing her job, but things have gotten a bit much, and she finds herself sharing her story with Wolf, a young writer in London who has an acquaintance with death but not Mrs Death. Through Wolf, we learn about past deaths and about what Mrs Death thinks makes life worth living.

This is a difficult book to describe, written in different styles and blending prose, poetry, and script at times. The move between short prose chapters and short poems is particularly good, bringing a sense of seeing into Mrs Death's thoughts through poetry as well as seeing Wolf's narration in prose. Despite being a novel, there's also a lot you can take as have non-fiction elements, with reflections on the common depiction of Death as male and on various issues as they come up, and this makes the novel more powerful, as it becomes not only the story of a strange unreal friendship, but a look at good and bad, life and death.

If you enjoy books that blend prose and poetry and that muse on larger issues whilst focuses on two main characters, this one is for you. It is fast-paced, easy to read quickly, and unlike most other novels you'll read.

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This is truly one of the most creative books I’ve read in a long time. The writing flows and you’re carried alongside Mrs Death, who wants someone to write her memoirs. All manner of life and death is mentioned as she recounts her life’s work (her death’s work?) to writer Wolf Willeford. From the offset you know this is a very special read and the writing style – which offers a variety of formats – adds to the sense of someone repeating their life’s events. Along the way you read what could be described as affirmations: positive messages that urge you to live your best life (not a social media post in sight) and to rage against the dying of the light. I found it to be skilful and effortless reading. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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This is an energetic read, full of emotion. The cadence of Godden's writing is poetic and fluid, I found Mrs Death Misses Death to be energetic and easy reading, but laced with a profundity that hits the reader at the end. The characters of Wolf and Mrs Death are beautifully described; they come to life from the first page. I was intrigued by this presentation of Death too, woven into the novel through poetry, pop culture references and history. Thoroughly original and highly recommended, and I look forward to reading more of Salena Godden's work.

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This book is to be appreciated rather than enjoyed after all it is about death. Having said that it is a book really about life and it’s scary in places. This book is in parts poetic, in part observations and in parts a story. This is the type of book that should be read by all ages and should be studied by the young. It is about the World, it is about Black Life’s Matter, it is about all life’s matter, it is about the silly things that people say and do around death, it’s about the mad and bad things people do in life, as Death says “unless the Humans change the way they are living, they cannot change the way they are dying.” It is actually about so many things. This book is quite profound and will win awards. I would definitely recommend this book, you might not enjoy it but you will definitely appreciate it and it’ll stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it. And I feel grateful to have been gifted an advanced copy.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Canongate Books for the arc of Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden

This follows Mrs Death who spends eternity doing her job and now in which she seeks someone to unburden her consequences... She meets Wolf who is a young writer who is troubled whom is also well acquainted with death itself,

Interested and gripped by her wolf decides to say in which to write her memoirs he travels with Mrs death through time to witness deaths of past and future, and what does the future hold.....?

This was a very gripping and interesting read something different to what I usually read ☺️☺️ but I thoroughly enjoy it❤️

4 stars recommend ❤️

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trigger warning
<spoiler> death by fire, suicide, transphobia, being orphaned, mental illness, sexual violence towards children, slavery </spoiler>

A writer purchases an antique desk that lets them communicate with Mrs Death, interview her, write down her life, her work.

A big topic of this is when Mrs Death misses death - when someone nearly dies, but somehow survives, and the possibility of puns. The nature of death, and what kind of life a personified death might lead, which people Mrs Death came in contact with.
That, somehow, the Grim Reaper is depicted as male, but the most invisible person is a homeless black woman.

This book is short, and the author recommends reading it in one go, which I nearly did, and I agree it's the best way to consume it. Give it room to breathe, put away all distractions, and see where it takes you.

Not only would I recommend this book, I'll make sure to keep a look out for further works by the same author.

I recieved a copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.

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To start with, we got hit with some very strange but true disclaimers. If anything, if perfectly set the tone for what was to come.

It was so lyrical and beautiful, mixing traditional story telling with poetry and a strange but haunting lilt and flow to words that made it at times frenzied and urgent, but soft and sing-song, simultaneously and separately.

I would say to definitely go into this book aware that it will probably trigger your anxiety, it certainly did me a little bit, and that there are themes very similar in content to what happened with the Grenfall fires. I guess because it's recent and nothing has still been done, it instantly brought those thoughts up.

This was such a unique piece of art. It was weird and wacky, harsh but true, bold but beautiful and stirred within me so many feelings... The main one being that of feeling understood!

I really enjoyed that Godden took this concept of Death, usually portrayed as male, and wove into a different personification, using the most unseen person in this world: an old, black, woman. It was fantastic and what the author did with it was fascinating! I also liked the idea of death being a rabbit too!

It kind of reminded me a little of Melmoth at times. I think it just vibed similarly.

I feel like I have so much to say that I can't contain myself, but at the same time not knowing how to express my thoughts, so for fear of rambling on, I'll keep this one short.

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The robin was once seen as a messenger from the land of the dead, sent to summon those about to die. Yet, yet still, in the dying moments of a winter's evening, high in a cage of bare twigs it opens its throat and breaks your heart with rapturous song. If 'Mrs Death Misses Death' is haunted by the presence of the dead, still Salena Godden's prose sings and her poetry defies the approach of night. For if the day is short and the dark certain then the trick is to live life while we can. Poignant and lyrical, poetry and prose tangle and entwine, and whisper, warm and witty, hot breath on your cheek. Speaking to you and you alone, as only a poet can. Entrancing and memorable like a melody heard once and never quite forgotten.
There is no need to seek death out, to climb a tower and scan the horizon, to force your head into cold water and search amongst the discarded shopping trolleys, to brave midnight graveyards, she is always there, at your shoulder, one cold hand clutching your sleeve. There is no use in running away, she is always a little distance ahead, she will wait for you to arrive.
The business of death is a lonely one and Mrs Death has stories she needs to tell, histories that need recording. She has passed unseen down the dark alleys, the battlefields, the hospital wards of history, with no one to hear her tales, until now. Wolf Willeford has seen death at work, in flame and smoke, in blackened towers, Icarus falling, now she meets Death herself and the troubled young writer begins to write the Life of Death. She travels through time recording the lost lives of lives lost, sat at an old desk purchased from a curiosity shop, a desk through which the memories pour. In a hungover, strung-out, chaotic dawn, Wolf leads us through the time-drenched streets of London, the London of child exploitation, of the Ripper and the Kray twins. Who is the black woman, head down on a passing bus? The woman buying wine with small change, the beggar, the hospital cleaner, the figure caught by a lightning flash leaning over a body in a dark alley, need you ask?
And I think of Aphra Behn, of Blake and Dickens, who wandered these same dark streets, of The Wasteland and Nina Simone leaving Ronnie Scotts with a plastic carrier bag in her hand. I am haunted, haunted as I was by Carol Morley's Dreams of a Life, a drama-documentary about Joyce Carol Vincent, who lay dead among the Christmas gifts she was wrapping, television on, for three years, lost.

Willmore: There is no sinner like a young saint.

Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.

I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

Unreal City
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

This is the end of the line
I've clearly read every sign
The way you glance at me
And take your hand from mine

For all its darkness, 'Mrs Death Misses Death' is full of joy, for all the tragedy there is humour and warmth, and hope. Salena Godden has written a book that lives in the memory, infused with poetry, song, and spoken word, but greater than the sum of these, a novel, bearing powerful witness to the distant voices of the forgotten.

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This is extraordinary! Brimming with originality, imagination, power and heart, this ranges widely through literary form (prose, poetry, play-script), and through time though it has its political eye firmly on our present from the intimated Grenfell Fire to Sarah Reed ('Mrs Death in Holloway Prison: Say Her Name: For Sarah Reed, Black Lives Matter').

Through the acquisition of a 'magic' desk, Wolf (whose mother perished in the tower block fire) learns to hear the voice of Mrs Death whose silenced profile and invisibility make her, of course!, an old, Black woman. A struggling writer, Wolf has found his subject.

It's hard to convey the genius of this book: it's such easy reading in the way it slips down effortlessly yet the subject matter can be hard at times. For me, the quality of the writing is part Dickens neo-Gothic, part up-to-the moment social commentary, part lyrical poetry. A thrilling piece of writing that deserves to win literary prizes.

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Thank you to Netgalley, Canongate and Salena Godden for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I have to start off by saying that I think this is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. The writing style is gorgeous, Salena Godden moves from a beautifully written prose to incredibly moving poetry and script. The differentiation between chapters makes it incredibly accessible and all the more moving.

Mrs Death Misses Death follows the author Wolf, who is attempting to write about Mrs Death and her life. The disclaimer provides a witty insight into what you can expect from the book, and the disclaimer had me hooked. Then moving into the first chapter you begin to understand more of what Godden is doing, not only is she exploring the lives of Mrs Death and Wolf, but she is making a brilliant social commentary as she does so, on things such as Grenfell, the inequality that Black women face among many other things.

I won't lie, it is a strange book, but it is beautiful and creative and captivating. The story is compelling, and I would highly recommend it. I genuinely feel that a review cannot entirely do justice to this artwork, and I think that it is one I will keep thinking of in the future and coming back to. Thank you.

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Let me start by saying that Mrs Death Misses Death completely caught me off guard. It, in no way, was what I thought it was going to be about. I hadn't heard of the author before and as it turns out Mrs Death Misses Death is Salena's first novel, away from her regular poetic writing, which clearly resonates in her book, and so I'd say that this book isn't for everyone. If you're expecting a thriller based read of gruesome death then you'd be wrong. This is more of a biography written by Mrs Death, sharing her connection to the universe and mostly sharing that connection with a boy named Wolfe, who's mother, along with others died in a building fire.
There are a lot of true life events in this book and there are extracts taken from true deaths like Sarah Reed, Myra & Ian Hindley, and even Jack The Ripper, which gives you a lot of pause for thought.

All in all I found this a brilliant, but sad read,

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I was thrilled to be able to read and review this and I devoured it in a day! I picked up my Kindle to pass a bit of time on whilst I was travelling and could not put it down. This is a very different style to what I normally read but it kept me gripped throughout with the changing writing style and format. It was very thought-provoking and a lot of the storyline resonated with me. Salena Godden writes beautiful prose and her words will stay with me for a long time after reading.

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This is a moving and thought-provoking story about Mrs Death. She has spent eternity doing her job and she is fed up and now wants to find someone and unburden herself what with all the things she has done. So, she meets a young writer called Wolf. Who has some experience in death as she nearly died in a fire and half her family is dead? Mrs Death shows Wolf everything about death and what could have been done differently and how people lived years ago and about life. How to live life to the fullest. The story is not written in a normal sense. This story is part narrative, part poetry.
Thank you NetGalley and Canongate for a copy of Mrs Death misses death by Salena Godden. When I requested this, I was expecting something completely different to what I just read in a good way.
This is an unusual, but beautifully written story about death but also life. It is fast paced and an easy read. I couldn’t put this down. This is one of them books that will leave you with unanswered questions that will stay in your mind for a long time. It also a great start for a debut novel. 4 stars from me.

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Mrs Death is exhausted. She thought the twenty-first century would be easier, a lighter workload, but people are still dying above and beyond what is necessary; genocide, natural disasters, sometimes an accident when taking a selfie. And that’s just the human race. She also has things like the plastic-filled oceans, forest fires and climate change to deal with. Befriending a young poet named Wolf Willeford, Mrs Death and Wolf join forces to tell her story.

‘Mrs Death Misses Death’ is a powerful novel. The fact that the author, Salena Godden, is a poet is so clearly apparent from the way it is written and this use of words and phrases makes the story even more affecting. It is extremely quotable and I have had to restrain myself from sharing all the wonderful, thought-provoking lines within its pages. I’m sure they will be seen on Pinterest walls and Tumblr feeds in due course!

Yet, for a book about death, there is a lot of emphasis on living and there are plenty of moments which raise a smile and sometimes a chuckle. It gives us a lot to think about, too. Recurring themes throughout the novel include those of our personal histories, the realities of mental health, the portrayal and perceived roles of women, and of identity.

Although we get an impression of how Mrs Death likes to present herself fairly early – whether as a ‘poor old... homeless black beggar-woman’ or sometimes with a look inspired by Nina Simone – we don’t get many descriptions of Wolf throughout the book until near the end. For much of the book, they remain a character that we can’t easily visualise – or indeed ‘label’ – and I really liked this.

I found I needed to read this book twice, the second time in one sitting, to really get the most from the text. In doing so, I realised that this was no hardship; as I have said, the novel is beautifully written, plus the ‘disclaimer’ that begins the book suggests it can be read in the time it takes a train to travel between London and Liverpool. ‘This book is short because life is short’, it tells us. So, make sure you find the time to enjoy this incredible book; it’s later than you think.

My thanks to NetGalley UK and to the publisher, Canongate, for the advance copy of this book, on which this review is based.

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*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

How could I resist picking up a book with this cover and title during the spookiest month of the year? I went in knowing very little and was pleasantly surprised.

The most surprising thing about the book, and the aspect I loved most, is the mix of prose, poetry, dialogue transcripts and diary entries, along with a mix of philosophical tangents that feel almost like non-fiction, as well as actual historical occurrences, alongside the stories of Wolf and Mrs Death. Salena Godden managed to keep me hooked throughout with her stream of consciousness writing style without making the book inaccessible.

If you are open to fiction that has some speculative elements and isn’t neatly tied up in a bow, I would highly recommend this book. I didn’t personally like the abrupt ending but I loved the journey getting there. There are some graphic scenes, both in terms of sexual content and with deadly graphic violence, which were shocking but contrasted with the dreamlike state of the rest of the novel.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and I would highly recommend you pick it up when it releases early 2021. A great autumn read for those who don’t want to read intense horror but still experience a dark and gothic atmosphere.

4 out of 5 stars!

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I utterly adored this. A lyrical exploration or grief through poetry and prose. Rather than being a traditional narrative story, this read like experiencing raw emotion, and tells the tale of the traumatised Wolf who is coming to terms with their incredible losses while channeling Mrs Death.
This is elegant and raw and life-affirming, although their are very powerful moments of suicide ideolation.
This is truly a book born from the sociological, environmental, economical and political trauma currently being experienced globally with heavy influences of Grenfell, and Rasict tragedies from recent years. It addresses anxiety and trauma but provides a route map through it. And it is endlessly quotable. If this doesn't get nominated for all the prizes and win at least half of them I will be shocked.

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I devoured this original book in 2 sittings as it is fairly short and a very easy read but packs a punch of heartbreak and revelations that keep you reading.
Wolf is a complicated character; engulfed by grief, struggling with his mental health and yet trying to secure his dream of becoming a writer, he develops an unusual friendship with Mrs Death. This takes us on a journey exploring the lives and deaths of generations of both Wolf's ancestry and infamous deaths in the past. Because Mrs Death is THE Death, the personification of all that has witnessed every life ending, but also those spared.
I was grateful for the poignant, true-story deaths Godden writes about with such compassion: miscarriages of justice, cruel exploitation, senseless murders and preventable tragedies that need to be remembered. However, don't be fooled in to thinking this book is all doom and gloom, it has a darkness no doubt of that, but the poetry and ultimate plan of the story is the most life-affirming, hopeful thing I've read in a long time.
Particularly in the Western world humans have a very difficult relationship with death, however this book offers a bridge, a humanising approach to the connection between life and death, our psyche of grief and how fragile but precious EVERY life can be.

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'Mrs Death Misses Death' is a darkly strange little book that is very hard to define. A young man called Wolf befriends, if it can be called that, Death, who happens to be a very tired, very opinionated black woman.
"Some people never imagine death. They rush and push and elbow through life, they use people like stepping stones or the rungs of a ladder. They use people and take what they need and move on, they consume and consume, constantly taking, reaching and grabbing. Where the f**k do they think they are hurrying to? Where do they think this road goes? I am Mrs Death and I am coming for you all."
Mrs Death communicates with Wolf after he acquires a beautiful old desk, which Mrs Death uses as a conduit. He writes down what Mrs Death tells him, all her thoughts and worries and annoyances. But Mrs Death had 'met' Wolf many years before, when he was nine and his mother was killed in a fire. Wolf somehow survived, and ever since he has been searching for meaning and belonging. The story weaves backwards and forwards in time, a visceral, at times darkly humorous stream of consciousness. Poetic, lyrical, full of passion and heartbreak and joy, it's a story that will stay with me for a long time.

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This book was brutal. It was a painfully honest and raw exploration of mental health and what it means to fully live your life, and its interweaving of both prose and verse made it an incredibly poetic and poignant read. As someone who has struggled with my mental health, this book really resonated with me. It put experiences I’ve had into words, and told me things I needed to hear. It tackled many important topics, such as domestic abuse, poverty, sexual violence and police brutality, and I appreciated that it highlighted a number of cases which I was previously unaware of, such as those of Sarah Reed and Inga Maria Hauser. While there were some elements I didn’t like, such as the frequent use of swearing, this is entirely down to personal taste, and didn’t affect my rating.

After finishing this book, I felt hollow, but I also felt hopeful. I’ll definitely be picking up a physical copy to re-read and annotate, and to refer back to again and again. I would advise caution to those who are struggling, as this book does face a number of potentially triggering topics head on, but I definitely think it could help people through some hard times. Overall, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

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Mrs Death Misses Death is quite unlike anything I have read before. It is thought-provoking, philosophical, full of tragedy, and will make the reader think about life, and indeed, death, differently.

Wolf Willeford has seen tragedy. Living in a tower block, one night there is a fire, and Wolf's mother is killed in the blaze. Reflecting on life since this night, Wolf thinks about death, why they were one of the ones to live, and why it is that humans are becoming more selfish and less kind. Wolf walks alongside Mrs Death, the all-powerful female, the one who is there to witness and clean up all the death and destruction this world brings. There is no way to escape death, but sometimes Mrs Death misses. She advises Wolf to live:- 'live free, live wild, live true and live love alive'.

Death is on the increase - poverty, austerity, suicide, war, terrorism. Wolf contemplates the madness of the world we are living in. Wolf may be treading a line between madness and sanity, but aren't we all? As Wolf takes refuge in a writer's retreat, the book ends with a series of contemplative poems that are moving and poignant.

A book that is of its time, Mrs Death is one to be savoured and thought about long after it is finished.

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Mrs Death Misses Death beautifully blends poetry, prose and script to tell the story of two main characters: Wolf and Mrs Death. This book is unlike any I have ever read, it begins with a disclaimer that is both bizarre and eye opening and sets the reader up for what they are about to experience.

The writing is fast paced and engaging, a short books that packs a real punch in terms of grief and loss and what matters in life. Framing Death as a woman allowed for the story to carry topics with a level of honesty and grace, topics such as racism, sexism and modern day politics - all of which were handled with care and were woven seamlessly in to the plot.

It is hard to do this book justice with a review and there are elements of this book I will be thinking about for a long time. It should be noted that there are a number of trigger warnings with this book.

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Great read, you become wrapped up in this story and keep turning the pages. A wonderful story about friendship and what we fear most yet are fascinated by.

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Troubled writer, Wolf, first meets Mrs Death on the day Wolf’s mother dies in a Grenfell Tower-style fire. As an adult, Wolf becomes her scribe as Mrs Death tells her story.

As you can surmise from the title, Mrs Death Misses Death plays with words and riffs on the vocabulary of dying—you can definitely tell that the author is a poet. A playful and life-affirming as well as incredibly poignant story.

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This is just wonderful, lyrical, life-affirming and timely. Combining a number of literary forms including traditional storytelling and poetry, it tells a story of Mrs Death’s loneliness and weariness. She seeks to unburden herself, to tell someone what she has lived through and experienced. Wolf Willeford is also lonely, a twentysomething Londoner brought up by his grandparents after his mother died in a tower block fire. A struggling writer, one day he buys an antique desk with his rent money and feels compelled to write Mrs Death’s memoirs. She has passed through time unnoticed, after all everyone thinks Death is male and nobody really notices an older Black woman, she is practically invisible and yet she has seen so much.

Mrs Death Misses Death deals with some heavy issues: mental health, murder, historical oppression and discrimination. It is also a social commentary of our own time, our disastrous environmental impact on the planet, Grenfell fire, racism. Yet it is also about life, compassion, love and joy and it is hopeful. I enjoyed it very much, it is original, thought-provoking and beautifully written. Highly recommended.

My thanks to Canongate and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review Mrs Death Misses Death.

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