| 13.8°C Dublin

How to Fall Apart: Tender reflections on love and motherhood after a marriage ends

Biography

How to Fall Apart

Liadán Hynes

Hachette, 352 pages, paperback €14.99; e-book £6.99

Close

Natural-born survivor: Liadán Hynes

Natural-born survivor: Liadán Hynes

How to Fall Apart by Liadán Hynes

How to Fall Apart by Liadán Hynes

/

Natural-born survivor: Liadán Hynes

'The knowledge that your marriage is over isn't something that settles on you in one moment," writes Liadán Hynes of the breakdown of hers. "It isn't a light bulb - nothing one minute, full illumination the next." In fact, as Hynes notes, it can be entirely usual to be ploughing through series of Game of Thrones together as one entity, and then seeing your TV-watching buddy move out within days.

In a series of staccato moments and vignettes, journalist Hynes - a regular contributor to the Sunday Independent, Irish Tatler and Image - recounts the meeting of her future husband at the age of 26. As befits tradition, a wedding and the arrival of their daughter Sarah (now five) soon followed. It was a mutual, relatively drama-free parting, but that doesn't make the aftermath any less difficult to bear. There is the new world order of co-parenting. There is rebuilding a life with an entirely new identity as a non-wife at the age of 40. There are coping mechanisms, from life coaching to crystals. There are, in time-honoured tradition, book clubs.

Amid it all, Hynes calls on a number of friends ("sister wives") to help her move forward, and eventually begins a popular podcast, How to Fall Apart. In it, she interviews others about the moments when their lives came apart at the seams.

So far, so Elizabeth Day, but How to Fall Apart is not a call-to-arms like Day's How to Fail bestseller. No doubt it would be tempting to hitch a ride on publishing's new penchant for personal 'failosophy'. Certainly, shelves are heaving with confessional tomes of women spilling their more challenging life moments, from bereavement and illness to mental health challenges.

Yet Hynes' debut is much more reflective and tender in tone than a mere life survival guide. She has done away with the polemic and the "to fail is really to succeed" party line, allowing her succession of intimate reflections to do the spadework instead.

As Hynes herself is the first to admit, she has had a relatively unscathed and drama-free life so far. Divorce is not an easy process to undertake, but there is never a sense that she can't rebuild herself from the ground up. Certainly, there is grief, regret, depression and the elegiac air of heartache galore. There is the grieving for "the future bigger family home, the future possible children, the blissful retirement or the family holidays we will not take".

Close

How to Fall Apart by Liadán Hynes

How to Fall Apart by Liadán Hynes

How to Fall Apart by Liadán Hynes

Starting over is not an insignificant process. But Hynes is a natural-born survivor, and on the page, a likeable one at that. Ultimately, it is Sarah who provides the sense of purpose, the love and the hope that only young children can. Sarah is the source of an unshakeable sense that Hynes is luckier than even she can believe.

Mercifully, Hynes is not creating a solipsistic, dramatic reimagining of her marriage breakdown. It has happened before in memoir: Elizabeth Gilbert had to contend with the sour ring of critics describing her as the product of "middle-class privilege" in her ear as she recounted her own marriage breakdown in Eat, Pray, Love. Rather, How to Fall Apart is plain, unadorned, and all the better for it.

As Hynes says, most people will remark at the end of a marriage, "thank God there are no children involved". For Hynes, motherhood is a big reason to put one foot in front of the other.

Reluctant, ultimately, to dismiss her marriage as a failure, Hynes writes: "It is not the ending I imagined, but it is more than enough in its own way. A happy an ending as any. For this child is pure love. A person with the ability to make it all okay, even at the times when it really isn't."

Amid the post-split moments, from the buying of colourful dresses and gate-crashing friends' family holidays to emotional nights out, Hynes paints a vivid scene that any woman can relate to. Not just women who have experienced the pain of a marriage breakdown, but those who have had to arrive at their own personal hell and keep going.

Indo Review