THE KINDNESS BY SJ HOWARTH (ABCTales' own JupiterMoon). OUT NOW!
Posted by Insertponceyfrenchnamehere on Wed, 13 Jul 2022
When you know your time is short, anything starts to feel like everything…
Daisy Lowry is missing a dad…Gabriel Lowry is a dying illusionist seeking a daughter…as both look for a reunion, they tumble into new and magical experiences, Gabriel having it all on to perform the greatest trick of this life – slipping the noose a very bitter, overworked Death has for him…whilst Daisy finds solace in a mysterious group of strong, independent women…
SJ Howarth is ABCTales' own JupiterMoon and his brilliant first novel The Kindness has just been published. It's available via Amazon only through his website here:
Here's a review by Airyfairy:
Gabriel Lowry is a wanted man. His daughter Daisy, whom he abandoned when she was child, is searching for him. More worryingly, Death is searching for him. There’s not many people can give the slip to Death.
Magic is at the heart of this intriguing and absorbing book by S J Howarth (ABC’s own jupitermoon), the first part of the Keepers of the Song series. It’s not just the sleight of hand that the now elderly and ailing Gabriel used to employ on prime-time television, or the legerdemain employed by the overworked, under-appreciated and thoroughly pissed-off Death. It isn’t just the power of the Sisterkin, as they assemble at the wise woman Morfydd’s cottage, or the genuine but tacky talents of medium Davey Garry, another television stalwart and long-time friend of Gabriel. The real magic here is that of people’s relationships, with each other and with places.
Howarth weaves a complex pattern with his characters’ lives, spooling out the threads at the beginning and gradually working them back towards each other, with many twists and turns along the way. Loss is a common theme: of people, of chances, of self. The characters’ searches for what is missing, and for second chances, brings them tantalising close to each other at various times, only for the threads to be pulled in another direction. Meeting another person face-to-face rarely provides the answers.
The descriptions of place in the book are beautiful, particularly so with Gabriel’s and Morfydd’s respective cottages and their Welsh surroundings – in Morfydd’s hearth, ‘embers twinkle in the grate like hillside beacons’, and it takes real skill to evoke both a cosy fire and the landscape outside it in just a few words. But Howarth also takes us to Manchester, to the devastation of a car crash, to Kandahar. The same care is given to descriptions of people and their relationships. Daisy’s friendship with boy-next-door Suni is a wonderful thing, full of acceptance and mutual understanding. The dynamic between Daisy and her mother at Christmas is so acutely observed it takes your breath away, and while Suni’s own family seems ideal, we discover that even this idyll has its secrets. Everyone, it seems, is performing their own sleight of hand, their own misdirection.
Howarth himself is a master of this, with brilliant manipulations of our expectations that provide the thread of wry humour throughout the book. You don’t expect Death to be either the obnoxious drunk everyone avoids in the bar, or the tenderly compassionate figure comforting a child at the final moment (I had something in my eye at that point). The Sisterkin are neither wispy, floaty creatures nor demented hags, but women of the world with jobs, motorbikes, and a liking for red wine. Meanwhile Davey Garry, the medium, leaps off the page with his rich language, appalling dress sense, and inherent deviousness.
The author draws this first book to a close with a thrilling – and literal – cliff-hanger which, as all good cliff-hangers should, raises more questions than it answers. More please, Mr Howarth, because, like Daisy and Death, I want to know just what is happening with Gabriel Lowry.