Does everything in life happen purely by chance? Or are we guided towards people who can help us in our hour of need?
Set in the lively coastal town of Brighton, England, Out of the Darkness tells the moving tale of three young women – complete strangers, each burdened by their own secrets, fears, and emotional baggage. Their lives are changed irrevocably when they are brought together by one remarkable connection: someone who wants to help them from beyond the grave.
Out of the Darkness is a haunting, sometimes heart-breaking, story of love, loss and life … after death.
Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan was published in July 2015, and is available via Amazon in paperback and for kindle. But before I tell you what I thought, I think I must come clean. While I very rarely read reviews for a book I plan to read, the most wonderful reviews for this book were simply everywhere around the time of its release: I read quite a lot of them, and I shared them on my Twitter feed. But I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to read it: many of you will know that I’ve had more than my fair share of loss and grief in recent times, and I thought the whole subject might be a little too close to home. But when the author contacted me to offer a review copy – then sent it wrapped in star-covered black tissue paper with the loveliest note on handmade paper – and I reread some of those reviews, with their recommendations that it was perfect for those whose lives have been touched by loss… well, I decided I just had to try it. And I don’t have one tiny moment of regret – in fact, I wish I’d read it sooner. This book was simply wonderful.
First there was the story, which focuses on three young women you grow to love. Mind you, I didn’t need to grow to love Jessica – she had captured my heart from the opening pages with her visit to her mother’s grave, her devastating sadness, her struggles to behave normally at work and her brief moments of joy with Finn. Alex took me a little longer – we follow her move to Brighton, her attempts to escape her unsuitable boyfriend, her fears that he may be stalking her – and I really wanted to get back to Jessica’s story. But when their stories come together, something quite magical happens. We find out that there is considerably more to Alex than it first appears. Their friendship is simply beautiful – moving from initial animosity to tentative outings and that special bond that everyone really needs. A third friend joins them – and Hannah has a complex story of her own, equally moving – and their lives become intertwined more that they already were.
You’ll already know that this book involves strange goings-on and the possibility of life after death – and that did worry me a little – but it’s all quite beautifully handled. The first outing for Jessica and Alex is to a meeting led by a particularly inept medium – and it’s very, very funny. But as things develop, the author keeps a quite perfect balance between the idea of love continuing after death – the world of the supernatural, and things that happen because they are meant to – and the emotionally engaging story of the lives of the three close friends.
There’s obviously a lot in this book about death and grief, mourning and coping – and it’s an incredibly moving read, that had me in tears several times. But it’s also shot through with love so great it hurts, and a feeling of hope that has you smiling as the tears flow. There’s a lovely gentle humour throughout too – even the occasional laugh-out-loud moment – so don’t be put off in any way by the thought that the there’s anything mawkish about it. It will touch your heart, but there’s something irresistibly joyous about the way it does it.
The writing is quite exceptional – descriptions of views, details in the homes, things that affect the senses, small images that are so vivid you feel part of them. The dialogue is totally natural too, and the characters perfectly drawn – Hannah’s parents, Finn’s drunken friend Mark and the old man who looks after the boat in the harbour are every bit as real as the main characters. And the way emotions are evoked and described is superb – there’s one scene where a character slumps to the floor amid a pile of dirty washing that had me sobbing helplessly. I also liked the occasional un-selfconscious introduction of conventional religion too – I learned quite a lot in passing about the Jewish faith, and relished the observation about the absurdity of dividing a graveyard on religious lines.
I particularly loved the little things in this book, the signs of something “other” – the hints of perfume or cigarette smoke, the hazy presence, the vivid dreams, the sparkling in the air, the inexplicable feelings of well being. I might not be any more convinced by life after death, and won’t be attending any spiritualist gatherings, but this book did make me think about it a little more – and left me with a total heartfelt conviction that love endures.
My sincere thanks to author Katy Hogan for her kindness in providing a copy of her book for review.
About the author
Having grown up with a mother who consulted her tarot cards on a weekly basis, and who would frequently sense an other-worldly presence, it has always been perfectly natural for me to assume that there is more to this life than meets the eye. I have even experienced a few mysterious encounters myself. But it was only when I suffered the loss of a loved one that I started to question the possibility of life after death, and decided to find out more. And so began a fascinating quest, where I met ‘ordinary’ people who claimed to have experienced the extraordinary.
This is where I found the inspiration for my debut novel, Out of the Darkness. Although it’s fiction, much of the phenomena written about in the story have been experienced by me, my friends, or people I spoke to during my research.
I have started work on my second novel, but when I’m not writing, you will find me keeping tabs on my teenage children, or walking my dogs in the Hertfordshire countryside.
Do take a look at the Out of the Darkness website.