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Publisher's Summary

Searing and extremely personal essays from the heart of working-class America, shot through with the darkest elements the country can manifest - cults, homelessness and hunger - while discovering light and humour 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 colour 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.

©2021 Lauren Hough (P)2021 Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Hough's writing will break your heart." (Roxane Gay, author of Difficult Women)

"This moving account of resilience and hard-earned agency brims with a fresh originality." (Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing

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Another ‘cult baby’ says thank you

This book hit me hard - while we grew up in different cults (mine was a more evangelical one), the author’s descriptions of how her childhood impacted her psyche could be me.
It’s not all culty and doom and gloom: the many funny moments, the social commentary, the sex (among adults), the brutal honesty - just wow. I’m going to listen to it again.
Love that there are separate essays, easy to dip into, though I binge listened to it over two days.

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  • R. Talbot
  • 05-26-21

Can't stop until it's finished

Great narration from both Lauren Hough and Cate Blanchett. I feel that if you follow Lauren on Twitter, and you should, you will already know how she views the world. This book is a deep dive into her life, her viewpoint and the stories she wants to share with us, incredible writing.

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  • MBM
  • 05-02-21

Beautiful and amazing

I loved every minute of this. What an amazing writer. It was like being punched in the heart.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-13-22

Love This Book

Thank you Lauren! You write about your life in a way that I can relate to. The words and pictures and ideas that shine through make sense to me, even though I did not grow up in cult or even in America. I connected to your story and the way you saw things through depression and trauma. It was hopeful, but also like you say equally beautiful and heartbreaking.