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A day out: An extract from Liadán Hynes’ new book

how to fall apart

How To Fall Apart is a memoir about what happens when your life goes drastically off course. In Liadán Hynes’ first book, she writes about putting the pieces back together…

You can know that your marriage is in terminal trouble but also know that there is a lot about your life that you love.

My brother’s girlfriend Song Yue came home from China where she has been on holiday – actually, she is Chinese, China is her home, but so comprehensively have we taken to her in our family that I now think of our home as hers. My girl has adored her from the first; Song Yue is a daughter whisperer.

Song is calm and quiet and, like our childminder Po, just the sight of her makes me feel reassured.


I can do this, if we are surrounded by people who love my daughter like she is their own, I think, beginning a bargaining process with myself. People who create a safety net around us.

When you are in the process of breaking up their world in some way, knowing your child is surrounded by people who love them like family is very comforting.

‘Your non-negotiables,’ a friend says much later, when life has come back around to being something I feel I can shape and exercise some control over, rather than something I have to suffer through white- knuckled, and the thought of having non-negotiables, of being able to decide that certain things are essential to my life, is beginning to seem possible.

‘I suppose Mommy is the love of my life,’ my daughter tells my brother one night as he puts her to bed. She says it in a considering voice; she will allow me the distinction. ‘And Song of course,’ she adds quickly.

We decided to go to Malahide on the DART to celebrate Song’s return. My daughter sits opposite Grandad (my father, but so entirely has he inhabited the role of grandfather that this is how we now all refer to him). They play with L.O.L. dolls on the ledge of the window.

‘So handy for a day out,’ my mother says approvingly of their diminutive stature. Like me, she is not a fan of fantasy play. ‘I’ve done my time playing on the floor,’ she says, adding that my father ‘loves it’ in a tone that will brook no suggestions to the contrary. Her title, bestowed by my daughter, is ‘Mo’. It started when she began calling her ‘Mum’, copying me. This could get weird, I thought, but, after a few days, she turned it into ‘Mo’. Again, this is what the whole family now calls my mother.

I sit back on my seat and allow things to wash over and around me, my family to occupy my daughter. She kneels up on her chair, looks over at me, beaming delightedly.

When we arrive at the park, my daughter can’t quite believe it, a real live castle. ‘I should have worn my Elsa dress,’ she says, throwing me a reproachful look at having allowed this missed opportunity.

It’s a surprisingly warm, sunny day. We sit on the grass eating cakes, taking turns to go for more coffees and chasing my daughter, her mop of curls springing up and down as she runs away from us screaming with laughter. I’m let off going for coffee runs; my marriage is falling apart, I couldn’t possibly be expected to have to deal with a queue.

My marriage may be over but there is so much of my life I love, I think as I watch them. It feels entirely baffling that these two things could even be possible, never mind entirely true.

Doublethink; the act of simultaneously accepting two contradictory beliefs.

Cognitive dissonance more like; the mental discomfort of holding two contradictory beliefs – because holding these two thoughts at once is certainly not comfortable.

How to Fall Apart by Liadán Hynes
published by Hachette Ireland is
out now, available from Dubray Books,
Eason and all good book shops.