Faber is to publish Jo Browning Wroe's debut novel A Terrible Kindness as a superlead title in spring 2022.
Louisa Joyner, associate publisher, pre-empted UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, from Sue Armstrong at the C&W Agency.
Joyner said: "Spending time with the characters in Jo's astonishing debut was one of those unforgettable encounters. A novel with deep emotional truth at its heart, and wit, honesty and resilience pulsing through every paragraph. It is a very special debut and one we all feel really honoured to be publishing."
Set in the 1960s, the novel explores trauma and masculinity through the experiences of a 19-year-old embalmer. The synopsis explains: "It’s 1966 and the night of William Lavery’s graduation as an embalmer. Little does William know that in a few hours he will be volunteering his services at Aberfan in Wales, after a spoil tip collapses on top of the local primary school. Only 19 years old, William is transformed by what he witnesses that cold, long night, and he makes a life-changing decision that will impact not only his future but the lives of everyone around him.
"This unforgettable coming-of-age story is an extraordinary treatise on masculinity, trauma and the powerful resilience of the human spirit. Bringing to mind novels such as Atonement, The Outcast and The Vanishing of Esme Lennox, A Terrible Kindness explores the split-second, life-changing decisions we make in anger, spite and moments of extraordinary heartache. It reminds us it's never too late to forgive – or ask forgiveness – and that hope will find its way back to us."
Browning Wroe grew up in a crematorium in Birmingham. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and is now Creative Writing Supervisor at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. A Terrible Kindness was shortlisted for the Bridport Peggy Chapman-Andrews award.
Commenting on the acquisition, she said: "It has been an extraordinary few months for me; first, signing with Sue at C&W and now being welcomed so generously by Louisa at Faber – both brilliant women in the publishing world that I feel thrilled to have supporting me. From the moment I learned about the volunteer embalmers at Aberfan, I wanted to find a way to tell a story that honoured and respected both them and the families so deeply affected by the disaster. It’s quite a daunting thing to do, but I feel with Faber, my novel is in the most capable hands imaginable."
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