Out of the Darkness is genuinely one of the best books I’ve read in years and will absolutely be in my top 10 books of this year!
It is an incredibly moving, and very beautiful novel about three women who are each dealing with a loss; it’s a really honest look at the ways people grieve and how it affects everyone around them, but it’s also about the way people heal after loss and the novel is ultimately a very uplifting read that brings real solace with it.
Jessica is heartbroken over the death of her mum, they were best friends and life just doesn’t feel worth anything to her anymore. She sleepwalks through the things she has to do but nothing is enjoyable to her, she just can’t see a way through life without her mum. Then one evening she meets Finn and the two of them just really connect. Finn is the first person to make Jess feel like there might be something to be happy about again and she hopes he will be in touch again after they go their separate ways the following morning.
Hannah attends the same bereavement group as Jess but she is completely closed down about her loss. She is grief-stricken and it’s affecting every aspect of her life, she is consumed with guilt but just can’t bring herself to share what has happened.
Alex has just moved to Brighton, and is now living in the house next to where the bereavement group is held. Soon after moving in strange things begin happening in her home and she starts to think the place is haunted.
One day, after the bereavement group, Jess faints outside and Alex and Hannah rush to help her and make sure she is okay. From this point the three women become friends and offer a much-needed support to each other. Their lives begin to become intwined and the psychic medium they later go and see together plays a huge part in the bond they form.
This novel is an exploration of how people deal with grief. Jess and Hannah both grieve differently for their losses loved ones but ultimately they relate to each other because they have both experienced loss. The three women have such different expectations when they begin to explore mediums and experts in the paranormal. Hannah wants to know her loved one is okay, Alex wants to know if her house is haunted and what she can do to be rid of the ghosts, and Jessica doesn’t really believe in any of it. Yet they all ultimately find comfort from what they learn. I found it fascinating how the idea of ghosts and the spirits that come through for psychic mediums were explored as one and the same thing in this novel. I think most of us think of ghosts as being a spooky or malevolent entity, and yet when we think of the possibly of an afterlife for lost loved ones, it is seen as a comforting concept. Katy Hogan has brought the two together as one thing, considering the idea that perhaps ghosts can be lost loved ones trying to contact or help those left behind. It gave me a lot to ponder over.
This is also a novel that really celebrates how wonderful and strong female friendship can be. Jess and Hannah meet at a bereavement group at the lowest points of their lives, and they meet Alex right after one of these meetings. They begin to let each other in to their respective lives and they form such a close bond very quickly, and the bond is never broken. To see women support each other was really lovely. There was never a moment of jealousy or cattiness between these women, it’s quite a rare thing in a novel. It was refreshing to see how their relationship to each other is bonded by how they support and look out for each other.
I deliberately took my time with this book and I read it slowly over quite a few days as I wanted to savour it and take it all in, I’m so glad I did as it gave me chance to really absorb what I was reading each day. This novel has so much depth to it and works on so many levels, it is such brilliant writing. The friendship between Jess, Alex and Hannah is a wonderful story in itself and gives the novel a grounding in reality that then makes the exploration of mediums and the afterlife much more intense and real. I think the biggest theme in this book though is the exploration of fate and destiny. From the very start of this book it felt like these women were destined to meet, like they were being brought together for a reason. I had no idea why but it just felt that way. Even Jess meeting Finn and him making her feel like she might be able to be happy again just seemed like either fate or like something was pushing them towards each other. This again gave me so much to think about because fate can be considered as just a series of coincidences that when we look back and see how things came together it seems like it was engineered that way, or it can be seen as our lost loved ones finding ways to point us in the direction we need to go in to find happiness again.
This novel can also be read on a very metaphorical and at times allegorical way, I loved the part of the book where Alex goes out on a boat called Guiding Light. It seemed like she was almost out of her own body and seeing the world from a different angle, and at the same time like she was receiving a message about the direction of her own life. I don’t want to post any spoilers for this novel so I’m being careful in what I write but I highly recommend taking your time with this novel so you can fully appreciate how much meaning and depth there is in it.
Out of the Darkness broke my heart in the first few chapters; I could feel Jess’s devastation at the loss of her mum. I wanted to reach through the pages of the book and tell her that in time she would feel better, that she would be able to deal with it once the rawness of her initial grief began to pass. I understood her feelings about visiting The Beacon to see a paranormal expert for the first time with Alex. I’m very like Jessica in that I’ve never really believed in an afterlife but then I still have moments where I can smell my mum’s perfume all of a sudden and it’s like she’s right there in the room, and just for that moment I stop and wonder. Perhaps it’s just a memory popping up but you can’t help but feel comforted when it happens, just like how Jess does.
Katy Hogan explores grief in such a beautiful and gentle way. She has written a book that will more than likely make you cry but it will ultimately leave you feeling healed. I wish I could put into words exactly how this book made me feel when I got to the end but I can’t seem to express it, it’s just the most amazing and brilliant novel and it made me feel better. I read this as an ebook but now so badly wish I had a paper copy so I could just hold it for a little while and then put it down where I can see it. I think I need a physical reminder in my home of all that this book stands for. It doesn’t shy away from death, it doesn’t take an easy road. At times the story turns in a way you don’t expect and it leaves you quite breathless. But ultimately this book makes death feel a lot less scary, and it makes the weight of grief feel that little bit easier to bear.
Out of the Darkness is absolutely going to be my book of the year. It’s both broken my heart and healed it; it was moving and beautiful and perfect. I’d rate it a hundred out of ten if I could, but as I can’t it’s a huge ten out of ten and it’s getting a very rare place on my favourites book shelf.
Out of the Darkness: A Tale of Love, Loss and Life After Death is out now and available from Amazon.
For more information about Katy and Out of the Darkness, check out her website here: http://www.outofthedarknessnovel.com
**This post is a re-blog of a review I originally posted on 4th November 2015**