Sometimes you just need a book to make you cry, to make you smile, to make you experience the high and lows of emotion without actually having to get off the sofa. Luckily, Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan is here to give us that opportunity.
Following the sudden death of her beloved mother, Jessica Gibson’s world falls apart. But after meeting a man who seems heaven-sent, she starts to feel she has something to live for again. And so begins an emotional journey, which leads Jessica to believe the unbelievable, thanks to a series of intriguing messages from beyond the grave.
I very, very much enjoyed this. It has romance, intrigue, a clever twist, comedy, and made me physically cry. But it also has a reaffirming feel to it and ultimately that’s what makes you come away from it feeling a strong sense of reader’s satisfaction.
Initially I had a slight worry that I was going to dislike the book. The beginning features a scene in which a grieving Jessica sees a mother and a daughter laughing and having an absolutely wonderful time on the bus, at which point the daughter blatantly and audibly says, “Mummy, what would I do without you?” and this just felt ever so slightly contrived. As well as this, another scene at the beginning shows a grieving Jessica being hounded by a mobile phone tariff saleswoman, who repeatedly says things to her like, “Just think, you could speak to your mum for as long as you like,” and “Wouldn’t it be great to phone your mum to wish her a Happy New Year, I bet she’d be delighted, I bet you talk to your mum every day.” It just really didn’t ring true to me at all.
What I will say is that this isn’t necessarily a BAD piece of writing (and for all I know, it could literally just be me who has this issue with these scenes) and after this point, the book just grew more and more lovely to read. By the end, I was completely gripped and very moved by the events within the book. It’s a good job I was in the bath as I finished it as embarrassingly I was bawling my eyes out.
The book opens with Jessica going through an incredibly harrowing emotional ordeal after the death of her mother leaves her in a depressed state. As a result it leaves her kind of hard, closed off, and completely unwilling to suffer many people around her. But it is down to great writing: as a reader you can feel how Jessica’s grief has almost turned her to stone inside. So while initially she isn’t very likeable, it’s understandable why.
Cue her meeting Finn, a charming man who shows her that life is worth living again. She also strikes up a strong friendship with Hannah, a girl at her bereavement class, and Alex, an American girl living in the village trying to find her purpose in life. As the novel moves along, we slowly begin to realise that these girls’ lives are actually far more entangled and involved than either the characters or the reader first realised. It is so fascinating to see it all unravel and reveal itself, and with the supernatural element added it’s even more intriguing.
Katy Hogan really makes you get to know her characters. They are fully fleshed-out, believable and lovable. Alex was a particular favourite of mine. Her internal struggle to try and find the right balance in life leaves you wanting to climb into the book and hug her. Hannah, meanwhile, wins you over in such a way that you feel a strong sense of solidarity with her, especially when she realises that she is stronger against her antagonists than she ever thought possible.
Throughout the novel there is such a strong sense of loyalty, of a growing love and friendship between women, and the writing really plays with your emotions in a way that a great book should. It explores death and how life continues after death, and how, through both the paranormal and the normal, people can still have a huge impact even after they’ve died.
It ends with a brilliant twist, too, which I always love in a book. It’s well worth giving this book a try. It now sits proudly on my bookshelf.
Many thanks to Katy and her publisher Illumine Press for the review copy of this book. Much appreciated!
Buy the book here.