A Heart That Works – Rob Delaney

Published By: Coronet
Pages: 192
Released On: 20/10/2022

When you’re a parent and your child gets hurt or sick, you not only try to help them get better but you also labour under the general belief that you can help them get better. That’s not always the case though. Sometimes the nurses and the doctors can’t fix what’s wrong. Sometimes children die.

Rob Delaney’s beautiful, bright, gloriously alive son Henry died. He was one when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. An experience beyond comprehension, but an experience Rob must share. Why does he feel compelled to talk about it, to write about it, to make people feel something like what he feels when he knows it will hurt them? Because, despite Henry’s death, Rob still loves people. For that reason, he wants them to understand.

A Heart That Works is an intimate, unflinching and fiercely funny exploration of loss – from the harrowing illness to the vivid, bodily impact of grief and the blind, furious rage that follows, through to the forceful, unstoppable love that remains.


It goes without saying that this book – and my review – contains some very difficult subjects, not limited to the obvious one of child illness and death, as well as depression, suicide and alcoholism.

The raw honesty Rob writes with is equally heartbreaking and heartwarming.

The way he talks about not wanting to kill himself, but if he happened to die another way, that would be okay, and whilst I haven’t lost a child (thank goodness), I have suffered – and do suffer – from depression due to a neurological condition. And on more than a healthy number of occasions have I thought “I don’t want to die as such but I’d be happy not to wake up in the morning”. And to see it written down like this is amazing and crushing and so, so sad.

Grief has been no stranger to me, and I’ve experienced the day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute way of living, and yet, to have to move on with your life after your child has passed – it breaks my heart to even consider.

It may sound bizarre to people who haven’t experienced grief, but Rob captures the humour in it perfectly. There are genuine laughs and I found myself smiling throughout it. Sometimes when you’re going through the hardest times, your options are to cry or to smile. And sometimes you’ve done too much crying, so smiling is your only option.

As sad as it was, I didn’t find myself crying until the end. And it wasn’t necessarily crying because Henry had died. It was more crying at how the family dealt with it and their love for each other. It’s so moving in so many ways that it will definitely cause a tear or two.

I’ve not watched Rob in anything on telly, but I had heard of him and the difficulties he experienced via interviews and whatnot. And so I didn’t necessarily know what to expect from him, but he has such a powerful touch that I’m eager to watch him do what he loves.

This must have been such a difficult book to write, but I thank Rob for allowing us to get to know Henry, if only for 200 pages. I would gladly read about him for so much more if he ever felt like sharing more. It’s a quick read, which given it’s difficult subject matter, is probably a good thing, but it means you can fully absorb yourself into it for one sitting.

Rob has given us all such a gift with this book. It’s a cruel, cruel world sometimes, but he proves it is possible to go through the worst of it whilst keep your head above water, and it’s possible to find the joy amongst the sorrow.

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