Hazel Hayes’ dazzling debut novel, Out of Love, is a romance told in reverse. As a young woman packs up her ex-boyfriend’s belongings, she reminisces on their love story and wonders how everything fell apart.
We are introduced to the couple at the end of their relationship and each chapter takes us further back in time, repairing the already unravelled romance until we eventually arrive at that magical first kiss under the snowflakes. In 353 pages, Hazel managed to completely break my heart and then put it back together again. Perhaps because the protagonist is unnamed, I saw a lot of myself in her emotions and experiences. I think anyone who has loved and lost would feel the same. In many ways, Hazel’s protagonist reminded me of Fleabag. From excessive swearing (Hazel seems particularly fond of the C-word which I find very refreshing) to dissociation and panic attacks, the protagonist in Out of Love feels messy and imperfect, but completely and utterly authentic.
The love and pride for her home country of Ireland is not something I can directly relate to, but I see a lot of my own relationship to the North in her struggles. As someone who moved to the other side of the country for University, it was comforting to see that longing for home recognised and validated. The mother/daughter relationship is another aspect that I found myself holding on to. Maybe it’s because I’ve been locked up indoors with only my own mother for company, but I have found a new appreciation for mother/daughter dynamics. I found myself tearing up at many points, but the biggest moment for me was when the protagonist really started to dig deep into the complexities of maternal love: “I am my mother’s daughter. For better or for worse…”.
Out of Love is a story about the deterioration of a relationship. It is the story of two broken people attempting to heal each other without understanding their own trauma first. But above all, it proves that love doesn’t have to be permanent to be beautiful.
– Francesca Sylph
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