cover image Hard to Love: Essays and Confessions

Hard to Love: Essays and Confessions

Briallen Hopper. Bloomsbury, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-63286-880-0

Hopper debuts with a smart group of essays on contemporary relationships. A literature scholar, Hopper cultivates a voice that is sophisticated and analytical, but also earnest and eager, and her strongest essays balance these qualities. In “Spinsters,” her treatise on female friendship, she shares fond memories from her life, such as of falling asleep to a friend’s voice on the phone, while decrying how the “arbitrary conflation of marriage with the commitments and responsibilities of adult life sometimes turns unmarried people into second-class citizens, while devaluing many necessary kinds of love.” Hopper also skillfully uses personal anecdote in a piece on how caring for a friend with cancer is both “the most adult thing... and the most adolescent thing,” because it requires negotiating health insurance policies, but also “willful wish-fulfillment” in the periods between treatments. Only rarely is she less successful, as in a disappointingly banal piece on “How to Be Single.” Much more often, she demonstrates how being deeply personal with the people in one’s life can help one to be critically engaged. “I think about writing and hoarding together,” she says, after describing the hoarders in her family, in that “so much has to be serendipitously discovered and rediscovered and collected and stored.” There is some to be passed over in these essays, but there is much more to be discovered. (Feb.)