Out of the darkness, Katy Hogan


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This novel is about the fog and pain of loss and the extraordinary healing bonds that can be forged when we let our barriers down. It is also about spirituality and life after death. It opens with Jessica who ten months on from the death of her mother is struggling with the void in her life and has delayed dealing with the practicalities that fall to her, the only child, to sort out. Her anger and sadness cause her to have an out of character one night stand with a stranger – who she never sees again. Realising she must do something to take control of her life she reluctantly joins a bereavement group and so triggers a series of seemingly casual meetings that, combined with her unexpected pregnancy, are about to change her life.

Among those who Jess meets is Alex, a young American woman who has recently moved to Brighton. Alex left her previous job because of major health problems and is starting life over as a voluntary art teacher. However since her move to Brighton Alex has come to believe that she is being haunted. In a search for answers she persuades Jess to accompany her to a spiritualist church meeting where, despite cynicism and farce, a meaningful message is received.

Hannah, a fellow attendee at the bereavement group, is drawn by chance into the friendship with Jess and Alex. Hannah’s mother has been lost in bitter grief for a year and Hannah has had to bear both grief and loss without the love of her mother or any support from her controlling husband. But hidden bonds connect the friends and these three young women support and strengthen each other and by extension their families. Their friendships are further deepened by the birth of Jessica’s son and they are all feeling more positive.

The hidden bonds gradually reveal themselves and bring the families closer just in time to deal with further unexpected tragedy.

This debut novel from Katy Hogan shows real promise. It is warm, considered and well thought out and she uses her own experience of  the spirit world to underpin the tale. The world of the medium is shown as a strange blend of the dowdy and the flashy, the inept and the skilled. The twists in the tale are cleverly concealed and although some might think it all a little too coincidental and tidy I found it heart-warming and entertaining. My only criticism is the feeling I had that Katy tried too hard to shape each line and to add the right number of adjectives, similes and metaphors, consequently some paragraphs have a formulaic feel. Nevertheless it is a good read, thoroughly enjoyable and I imagine it might well be uplifting for those struggling with grief. I’m torn between awarding a 3 bite accolade or awarding a 4 – why don’t you give it a go and see what you think.

Tamara Thomas
I am the only girl and youngest of four children, I grew up in a home stuffed with books, and now some fifty years later, great piles of them still appear in every room I inhabit. I won’t waste my time reading books that leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed; books are a source of light and inspiration in my world. Nevertheless, I love a book that makes me cry with loss or sadness such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or The Book Thief. Bliss is a winter’s afternoon on the sofa, snuggled in with my dogs, stove blazing and an absorbing book.