*Starred Review* Just as a reader would expect from the author of Four Wings and a Prayer
(2001), a captivating treatise on monarch butterflies, Halpern evinces a heightened awareness of nature and bracing insights into how place shapes people's psyches in her wryly funny, wholly entrancing, ultimately shattering debut novel about life in a small, poor, inbred logging town. Halpern's hapless but well-meaning 18-year-old hero, Cuzzy, has ended up homeless and unemployed, what with his father in a mental institution, his mother deceased, and his irrepressible girlfriend, Crystal, holed up incommunicado with their baby boy. Never in his wildest dreams could Cuzzy have imagined his involvement with Porsche-driving Tracy, a 43-year-old visitor deeply mourning the death of his best friend, Algie, a brilliant, and gay, ethnomusicologist. Cultured yet naive, Tracy, at the behest of a minister, offers Cuzzy a place to stay on Algie's fabled family estate, a job helping him sort through Algie's intriguing archives, and, therefore, an introduction to the wider world, but the local roughnecks assume it's all about sex, leading to a tragic confrontation. Halpern's gripping tale about life's myriad hardships astutely considers the dangers inherent in any cross-cultural exploration and the sad truth that compassion must be relearned at every step. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
"Sue Halpern has written wonderful books of nonfiction, but sometimes nonfiction to fiction isn’t a transition that can be made gracefully. Not only is the writing in her first novel unself-conscious—which is what grace amounts to when applied to literature, I think—but the words seem organic to the page. The Book of Hard Things is powerful and sad, and sometimes very funny, and it is the debut of a brilliant new writer of fiction."
--Robb Forman Dew
"A gem of a book, alternately fragile and durable, exposed then secretive, it’s a tale of metamorphosis, erosion, fault-and-fracture lines, lucid crystallization, and all the other forces that form our lives, interior and exterior."
"Sue Halpern has an eye that is penetrating without harshness and an ear perfectly attuned to the defenses of the wounded. She finds beneath the most adamant surfaces the hurt places that can heal, and her riveting novel challenges and moves us to see, beyond the particulars of class and worldliness, how loss can yield to caring."