Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of the 1981 blockbuster When Bad Things Happen to Good People, and 15 other titles that comforted and encouraged readers in their times of grief, suffering, doubt and fear, died Friday in Canton, Mass. He was 88.

Brooklyn-born Kushner, who led a congregation in a Boston suburb for 24 years, was had written two books in the 1970s before a family tragedy — the death of his 14-year-old son from a rare illness—prompted him to reckon with the age-old theological question of how an all-powerful God could allow evil and suffering. "If I had to choose, either God is all powerful but not kind or thoroughly kind and loving but not totally powerful, I would rather compromise God's power and affirm his love." he explained in a 2010 NPR interview. "God chose to designate two areas of life off limits to his power. He would not arbitrarily interfere with the laws of nature or take away our power to choose between good and evil."

When Bad Things Happen to Good People (Schocken) rankled traditionalists among Jews and Christians. However, his daughter, Ariel Kushner Haber, told NPR after his death, that she felt that his legacy was that his theology and philosophy— originally controversial among traditional Jews—was embraced by many faith communities. ,

Another hit title, Nine Essential Things I've Learned About Life (Knopf), was listed among PW’s Fall 2015 Top Ten religion and spirituality titles. In discussing the book, Kushner told PW he noticed that his congregation was no longer interested in what God expected of them, but rather in how much control they could have over their own religious lives. He also said that although people's view of religion has changed, Kushner hopes that his book will convince readers that “they will like their life better if they will make room for the religious domain—prayer, forgiveness—in it.”

In his book on why even successful people don't feel satisfied with their lives, he wrote in the bestselling When All You've ever Wanted Isn't Enough, (Summit, 1986) that people need to feel that their lives make a difference to the world, "We are not afraid of dying so much as of not having lived." And in another book, Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World (Knopf, 2009), a PW reviewer cited his "recommendations for coping require trust, religion, hope, courage, faith..."

His final book was a collection of sermons, Echoes of Sinai (Curtis Brown Unlimited, 2018).