Written By Michelle Gately
No matter what I’m going through, books are where I turn for comfort. Turning pages has helped me through each ebb and flow. And right now, I’m clinging to words for dear life.
This week, my fiance and I fly back to our home in Australia after two years living in the UK. We always knew it was going to be two years, but who could have predicted the year we’ve just had? We had no idea that the little town we settled in would become our whole life, or that leaving would be so bittersweet.
Yes, moving internationally is quite the change. But we all go through intense periods of our lives where it feels like everything we know is shifting under our feet.
Sometimes we choose that change (like when we moved to the UK) and sometimes the change is forced on us (life in lockdown). Change is not always a negative experience and often leaves as a stronger, more resilient version of ourselves. It is, however, always a little tricky to navigate.
No matter the circumstance of change I will, inevitably, seek comfort in book form. I need reassurance that this state of change is temporary. I need to know I’m not alone.
There are many other books which will help dealing with dips in mental health specifically, but the following books deal with themes of change in various stages of life.
If you’ve ever felt that way (or maybe if you’re feeling uncertain right now) then I hope these books will help you feel seen and understood. They may even help you work through whatever changes you’re facing.
Remind Me How This Ends by Gabrielle Tozer
It feels apt to kick these recommendations off with an Australian young adult book which beautifully captures some of the emotions I felt about my own hometown. Remind Me How This Ends in many ways is all about the mess of change; exploring the tangle of relationships, endless career confusion, and the desire to see more than the town that holds your childhood memories.
Milo is looking for an out, but his parents want him to buy a house in town and get a steady job. It’s so easy for people to feel trapped in a location because they’re tied to work, or a house, or simply are afraid of venturing wider. But then he reconnects with childhood friend Layla who is trying to come back to a home she feels hasn’t existed since her mother’s death.
Remind Me How This Ends explores grief so sensitively, with a few well-placed flashbacks to heighten emotion. The novel also explores some tough, taboo topics including drug abuse, homelessness and mental health. All are issues facing teens and young adults in real life, so it’s wonderful to see them reflected in literature in a way that doesn’t feel patronising or judgemental.
Remind Me How This Ends is a poignant reflection on the confusing limbo between school kid and adult, grief, and relationships. It’s simply beautiful, there’s no other way to put it.
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
This novel is one I plan to revisit (as soon as I can find my copy amongst the many boxes of books we have in storage). I hadn’t heard of Brooklyn until I watched the film adaptation at the cinema and fell in love. Immediately I bought a copy and dove back into 1950s Ireland and New York to revisit the story.
It struck such a chord with me because the story follows Eilis, a young woman unable to find a job in her small Irish town. Her mother and sister pool the money to send her over to Brooklyn in New York where she may build a new life with good qualifications.
Of course, this novel involves love and heartbreak. But for me the romantic element was more an expression of Eilis’s two lives: comfort and security in Ireland, or adventure in New York. Each decision involved potential heartbreak and, really, there is no right choice.
This beautiful novel delicately explores the ache to be elsewhere, the difficulty in returning to an old home and the heartbreaking decisions we all have to make throughout our lives.
Adventures in Opting Out by Cait Flanders
This is one of the last books I read and I could tell within the first chapter it was going to be one of my favourites. This is a book you need a physical copy of so you can underline and make notes and return at various points in your life.
Adventures in Opting Out dives into choosing to opt out of various societal expectations through the lens of hiking. The book is split into various sections of the “hike” from starting at the trailhead to reaching the first viewpoint, the valley and finally the summit.
This past month was the perfect time for me to read this book.I’m anxious about returning to my small Australian hometown having opted out of traditional employment to freelance and run my own business. But this book made me feel so seen and reassured that I can continue on the journey despite location.
But you don’t have to be moving internationally to find this book helpful. Cait Flanders also explores her journey with sobriety, and there are so many situations you can apply the “opting out” lessons to.
Are there any books that have helped you through periods of growth and change in your life? Come and join the conversation on instagram and tiktok @wildbooksco and let me know.