Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Book Review: Better by Far

By Allyson Bales

This genre-defying, meta-modern novel is unlike anything you have ever read, and yet at its core it is a story we all deeply understand. A story of love and liminality, and the ways in which grief grips us all. Prepare to laugh and cry; Hazel Hayes will break your heart, but then she’ll mend it for you.

Following a breakup, Kate and Finn decide to keep sharing their house until the lease runs out in twelve weeks’ time, alternating week by week so that they are occupying the same space but never at the same time.

Practically, the plan makes sense, but coming back each Sunday to a home where Finn has been and gone feels far too much like living with a ghost. Kate lost her mother at a young age and now this fresh grief dredges unhealed sorrows up to the surface, and soon, Kate finds herself adrift in her own subconscious, trapped in the liminal space between loving someone and letting go. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Better by Far is a very layered story with heavy themes of grief and the choices we make in life.  It has made me feel sad but also very introspective.  I finished it on Saturday night, sitting by a campsite with my wife on our first camping trip of the season and I’ve been unable to not have this story sitting in the recesses of my brain since.

Reading by a fire is one of my favorite things to do.  It is freeing and I often pick books that teach me something, make me reflect on my own life, and make me feel deeply. This book checked all three of those boxes.

I’ve come to realize recently that I don’t love reading too detailed synopses or reviews of books.  More and more I’m really loving going into books blind or with a minimal gist of what the book is about with the more surprises the better.  If you have been following along with other reviews I have written for Chick Lit Central, I struggle to tell you too much because I don’t want to ruin the book for you.  I don’t want to tell you too much because I want you to be able to peel the layers back like I did, to feel and think and also be deeply immersed in the story.  I think more and more my reviews are going to lean in that direction. So know this.

This novel will cover topics that are a bit heavier. It is done with grace and reliability on such a thoughtful level. I highlighted so much of this story because I felt seen and finally felt like my feelings were being reflected back to me and described perfectly.  So many times I thought and said, yes, that is exactly what I have felt.  If you have been through a breakup, this is also going to be a story you’ll want to read.

This story will make you sad.  But it will also give you hope.  It will make you think and explore and reflect on choices or thoughts you have and how you can maybe view things differently.  There is also some of the best mental health representation I have ever seen in a story.

Kate will be a character you want to shake but also want to hug. She is weak and brave all at the same time. That is so incredibly beautiful and I really can’t wait for you to meet her.  I really am so happy this story came into my life and I am really looking forward to hearing what you think once it enters yours.  I highly recommend this one!  I am better by far because of it. 

Thanks to Dutton for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Also by Hazel Hayes: Out of Love

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