Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing

Vintage. Apr. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9780593080764. pap. $16.95. MEMOIR
In a series of personal essays, Hough details her life’s traumatic experiences, addressing subjects such as poverty, mental illness, class, and sexism. Raised in a doomsday cult called the Children of God, Hough recounts her everyday shame and terror from mental, sexual, and physical abuse, especially by her stepfather. Hough recalls how, as an adult, she struggled to adapt to society outside the cult and form friendships. Her writing is candid and harrowing as she describes a life of reinvention—joining the Air Force during the era of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, grappling with her sexuality, having unfulfilling sex with men, and being unsure how to approach women in gay bars. She recounts receiving death threats and being court martialed by the Air Force for speaking out. Although found not guilty, she realizes that the military will always perceive her as an outsider. Moving from one chapter to the next, Hough recalls being raped while in the military, and living with PTSD and depression. Her experience of the daily struggles of surviving low-paying jobs will resonate with readers.
VERDICT Although presented in essay format, this reads as a poignant, gripping memoir. A page-turning account of belonging and not belonging, and what it means to start over.
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