Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert | Romance | Little, Brown | 384 pages | Review by Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed
Pain can be difficult when it comes to relationships, especially when it’s invisible. Black British author, Talia Hibbert’s latest romance novel, Get A Life, Chloe Brown, gets you to question and critically reflect on what happily-ever-after looks and feels like when you’re in pain – both emotionally and physically.
Get A Life, Chloe Brown centres on Chloe Brown, a wealthy Black woman working as a web designer who lives with chronic pain, and Redford ‘Red’ Morgan, a working-class white man who works as a building superintendent and who is attempting to heal from an abusive relationship. Both Chloe and Red are simply trying to exist under difficult circumstances and, understandably, love is the last thing on their mind. It also doesn’t help that:
1. Chloe and Red can’t stand each other. Chloe finds Red to be extremely rude and Red thinks Chloe is a spoilt rich girl. And,
2. Chloe and Red aren’t prepared to stop lying to themselves. Chloe can’t stop staring at gorgeous Red and his tattoos and Red is mesmerised by this ♪ brown skin girl ♪ … and is very obsessed with Chloe’s ankles.
With these two protagonists and a host of other endearing and hilarious characters, including an adorable cat, Hibbert has written a book that truly feels inclusive, but not in a tokenistic way. It centres race, disability, chronic illness, and class and features people of different shapes and sizes who are relatable AF.
Chloe has fibromyalgia and experiences chronic pain and insomnia. She developed symptoms of fibromyalgia in her 20s and Chloe now spends a large amount of her time managing the pain. Chloe was abandoned by her fiancé who dismissed her illness and her friends who have disappeared from her life over time.
Despite this, Chloe believes she is boring, or, to use her own words, “a socially inept control freak.” A near-death experience leads her to re-evaluate things. Chloe Brown decides to get a life. Chloe begins the process the only way she knows how – by writing a list, “ … because Chloe wrote lists.” Number one on Chloe’s list is moving out, which is how she meets Red, the superintendent in her new building.
Trigger Warning: Abuse
Red is an artist who was making a name for himself in the art world in London and is now back in his home city after leaving a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with a socialite he met while in London. In exploring Red’s experience of abuse, Hibbert addresses what could also be seen as another underrepresented or invisible form of pain, the pain experienced by male survivors of domestic abuse and the difficulty men, and all, survivors have in disclosing these experiences.
Is there ever a good time to let someone new in?
I have never felt the physical and emotional pain both Chloe and Red have experienced, but I know one thing, I would struggle to open up to anyone if I went through what they have. I found Chloe and Red to be brave, and by using alternating points of view in Get A Life, Chloe Brown, Talia Hibbert lets the reader get a deeper understanding of Chloe’s managing of her fibromyalgia and healing from abandonment as well as Red’s recovery from an abusive relationship.
I loved it
Get A Life, Chloe Brown is hilarious. I found myself laughing-out-loud at various points in the story – in public, and not giving a damn. There’s a brilliant chapter centred mostly on back and forth email exchanges between Chloe and Red with excellent rapport.
Get A Life, Chloe Brown is real. Chloe and Red felt real. So did their struggles and their healing process.
Get A Life, Chloe Brown is sexy. The romance had me asking, can I have my personal Red? More than that, Chloe – though she is living with chronic pain – isn’t represented as nonsexual, with no desire or capacity for sexual interactions, as individuals with disabilities often are.
Get A Life, Chloe Brown is smart. Talia Hibbert plays with class excellently – writing beautifully about a wealthy Black family in the UK with all their wonderful eccentricities while also highlighting the class-based distinctions between Chloe and Red.
Get A Life, Chloe Brown is thoughtful. Talia Hibbert writes about serious issues of chronic pain and emotional abuse with sensitivity and honesty.
Most of all, with Get A Life, Chloe Brown Talia Hibbert has written a positive, perhaps even liberating, love story of a Black woman living with chronic pain.
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