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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

What listeners say about Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing

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oh, you will listen and you will love it

my nearly blind stoner eyes were thrilled to find Lauren's book here. she's one of my absolute favorite follows on Twitter so I couldn't wait to read this. As I expected it brilliant. I laughed, I cried, I coughed but that was because I inhaled too hard (not Lauren's fault) I, the Bastard Sinner would recommend this book to anyone looking for something to punch your soul in the face with entertainment and meaning.

8 people found this helpful

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Amazing

I’m blown away by this collection of essays. I thought this was going to a story of survival and perseverance and it is, but it’s a lot more than than. She articulates the frustrations and absurdities of working class life, life on the fringes, in ways that resonate so deeply. Lauren’s wit and insight are stunning. I can’t wait for more.

5 people found this helpful

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  • JK
  • 04-18-21

Riveting, Visceral, Honest

I preordered this book as soon the author mentioned it on Twitter. Couldn't wait for it to drop. Counted the days. Whew, what a mountain of information, emotions, coming of age, coming out. So captivating. I was smart enough to buy both versions, which is great for reading out of sequence and pondering. Cate was fab, but I prefer Lauren's personalized account. TY for this work of art.

4 people found this helpful

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I wanted to like this way more than I did

Lauren Hough can write; make no mistake about it. She is a fantastic wordsmith with a great sense of humor. But two things kept this from being a great listen for me:

1) The narration: The book starts with a deep, well-modulated women's voice, perfectly enunciated, American accent, and by Chapter 2, I am wishing this "Lauren Hough" would narrate everything I ever listen to, because this narration is the most soothing and easy-to-understand aural balm I have ever come across. But then, a chapter or so later, I'm assailed by this monotonous narration with a bit of a twang, and it sounds like the reader is talking out of just one side of her mouth (literally) - hard to describe, but something is a bit off about the narration. And I quickly realize that THIS must be Lauren Hough, which means the first narrator was....Cate Blanchett? But where is her lovely accent? Odd choice to me, but in summary, Amercan Cate should have narrated the whole thing.

2) The subject matter: It's raw, sad, political; and that's all OK, but much of it started to feel like op-ed rather than memoir. I expected more of a rising out of the ashes of my upbringing story, and frankly, more about her cult upbringing, hence, my disappointment.

3 people found this helpful

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Loved these essays

Lauren’s deep honest look at her life, human nature, and how our society operates is enlightening and at the same time completely relatable. Her formative years spent in a cult allow her a unique perspective on group indoctrination in all of its forms. She is funny, insightful and gives some good advice to those of us who have depression. Thanks for writing and publishing your essays, Lauren. And for your courage.

3 people found this helpful

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Worst book

This is probably the worst book I’ve read. This woman had a horrible childhood and grew up to be a miserable person. The theme continues throughout the whole thing. She’s miserable, everyone is mean to her, life is unfair, America’s values suck.....nobody cares. Uhg. The reader talks in a monotone throughout.

3 people found this helpful

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unpopular opinion

I loved the book. Lauren thank you. Write more. Forget your critics. Power on always.

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LOVED IT!!!!!

This is so raw and you can feel what she feels.
Great book, great narrative get the book!!!!

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5 stars all around

I could relate on some level to every essay in this book. do not be fooled or manipulated by the idiotic 1 star ratings elsewhere from people who freely admit they haven't read a single page. I just finished listening and am ready to start it again. this is some good shit, buy it people

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Read this book. You won't regret it.

I was hesitant to listen to this book, I was worried it was going to make me sad, but I'm glad I did anyway. Lauren's story is a powerful and important look at who we are as people, as Americans, as parents, as children. Not to mention the incredible sad, but moving, story of her life.

2 people found this helpful