It is October 1918, and England is gathering its dead. For Henry Speake, of Speake & Son Undertakers, laying to rest the shattered bodies of young men sent home from the front has become a grimly familiar duty. But then a country already reeling from war faces an unexpected shock: an epidemic. The Spanish influenza will kill more people than World War I, and more people than the fourteenth-century bubonic plague. There is no cure, no help from the government, not even a clear sense of what is happening---but more and more people keep getting sick, and strangely enough, it is often the young and healthy ones who die.
Henry sees the dangers much sooner than most, especially when he finds a letter left behind by a dying doctor, who begs health officials to start closing ports and setting up quarantines before it is too late. Unable to get a government minister to listen to him, Henry turns to a local schoolteacher, Allen Thompson, a woman who would usually be above his station. But as the flu continues to claim its victims and there are no more grand coffins in which to bury even the wealthiest dead, the old social order begins to crumble. Henry and Allen find themselves imagining a new life together---if only they can survive themselves.
Inspired by the deaths of the author’s grandparents in the Spanish flu epidemic, This Time of Dying is a powerfully imagined story of love and redemption in a world where nothing can be taken for granted anymore.