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Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing  By  cover art

Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing

By: Lauren Hough
Narrated by: Cate Blanchett, Lauren Hough
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Publisher's summary

A New York Times Best Seller

"A memoir in essays about so many things - growing up in an abusive cult, coming of age as a lesbian in the military, forced out by homophobia, living on the margins as a working class woman and what it’s like to grow into the person you are meant to be. Hough’s writing will break your heart." (Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist)

Searing and extremely personal essays, shot through with the darkest elements America can manifest, while discovering light and humor in unexpected corners.

As an adult, Lauren Hough has had many identities: an airman in the US Air Force, a cable guy, a bouncer at a gay club. As a child, however, she had none. Growing up as a member of the infamous cult The Children of God, Hough had her own self robbed from her. The cult took her all over the globe - to Germany, Japan, Texas, Chile - but it wasn't until she finally left for good that Lauren understood she could have a life beyond "The Family".

Along the way, she's loaded up her car and started over, trading one life for the next. She's taken pilgrimages to the sights of her youth, been kept in solitary confinement, dated a lot of women, dabbled in drugs, and eventually found herself as what she always wanted to be: a writer. Here, as she sweeps through the underbelly of America - relying on friends, family, and strangers alike - she begins to excavate a new identity even as her past continues to trail her and color her world, relationships, and perceptions of self.

At once razor-sharp, profoundly brave, and often very, very funny, the essays in Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing interrogate our notions of ecstasy, queerness, and what it means to live freely. Each piece is a reckoning: of survival, identity, and how to reclaim one's past when carving out a future.

A Vintage Original

©2021 Lauren Hough (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

One of the Best Books of the Year: NPR, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Lauren Hough's Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing is so brilliant, so humane and pissed off and hysterically funny and thought-provoking, and so beautifully written it's hard to describe except to say that it's a book that is going to mean a lot to a lot of people, and it might cause some fights, and you better read it so you can have the pleasure of reading it and the pleasure of talking about it with everyone. She is the kind of extraordinary writer who could make anything interesting; that these essays are about her own astonishing life, written with a clear eye and a sense of humor so quick and black it hurts, and a kind of ruthlessness for herself and others, means it's like no other book anywhere. I loved every sentence.” (Elizabeth McCracken, author of Bowlaway)

“Lauren Hough is the best new voice I’ve read in years: fiercely honest, funny, brazen, and unrepentant. Best of all, the propulsive storytelling of Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing is anchored by an unexpected tenderness and vulnerability that will get you by the throat every damn time. Like a petulant cross between David Sedaris and Mary Karr, Hough is the genuine article. Leaving might not be the hardest thing, but leaving this vibrant, heart-wrenching memoir behind is damn near impossible.” (Heather Havrilesky, Ask Polly columnist and author of What If This Were Enough?)

"Lauren Hough’s extraordinary essay collection Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing is as powerful as it is poignant. So many moments in this exceptionally crafted essays brought me to tears and before long I would find myself laughing as Hough wielded her razor sharp wit. This is a memoir in essays about so many things — growing up in an abusive cult, coming of age as a lesbian in the military, forced out by homophobia, living on the margins as a working class woman and what it’s like to grow into the person you are meant to be. Hough’s writing will break your heart.... This is one of those rare books that will instantly become part of the literary canon and the world of letters will be better for it." (Roxane Gay, author of Difficult Women)

Featured Article: The top 100 memoirs of all time


All genres considered, the memoir is among the most difficult and complex for a writer to pull off. After all, giving voice to your own lived experience and recounting deeply painful or uncomfortable memories in a way that still engages and entertains is a remarkable feat. These autobiographies, often narrated by the authors themselves, shine with raw, unfiltered emotion sure to resonate with any listener. But don't just take our word for it—queue up any one of these listens, and you'll hear exactly what we mean.