A Real Hard Time

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Jones, Katherine Starlett
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<i>A Real Hard Time</i> is a story collection about grief, especially as it relates to drug addiction— permanence of grief, growing up with grief, identifying with grief in adulthood, manifestations of grief in family life. The characters in this collection—mothers, daughters, sisters, girlfriends, liars—are struggling to separate their identities from grief. Unable to place blame on addiction or the dead, some characters in the collection lash out at those closest to them while others accept grief as the new normal with melancholic passivity. Regardless of chosen coping mechanism, these characters are cagey, unreliable, and broken. Still, there is a transparency about them, a willingness to “take it on the chin” with humor despite the inability to make sense of their circumstances. <i>A Real Hard Time</i> asks readers to set aside their preconceived notions about addiction—to spare judgment on a mother who drinks and drives, to refrain from saying “I told you so” to the daughter of an addict who falls in love with one, to sympathize with an egregiously apathetic sister—all while exploring the nuances of what it means to “do your best.” With a nod to Harmony Korine’s fractured spontaneity, Jonathan Franzen’s truthfully unlikable American family, and the internalized angst of Heinrich Gerhardt from <i>White Noise</i>, this collection is for anyone who is struggling to put themselves back together after the loss of a loved one to substance abuse or otherwise.