Hard Mouth is one of the most unique novels about grieving I've ever read, with an utterly original narrative voice. Denny lives a solitary life working in a laboratory in Washington, DC, hanging out with her family, her longtime best friend, and her imaginary friend Gene. When her dad's cancer comes back and he decides to forego treatment, her existence is upended in almost every way imaginable. Thoughtful, dark, and page-turning, Hard Mouth is a remarkable debut. Recommended By Jill O., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
An adventure novel upended by grief and propelled by the aberrant charm of its narrator, Hard Mouth explores what it takes to both existentially and literally survive.
For ten years, Denny's father has battled cancer. The drawn-out loss has forged Denny into a dazed, antisocial young woman. On the clock, she works as a lab tech, readying fruit flies for experimentation. In her spare time, only her parents, an aggressively kind best friend, and her blowhard imaginary pal Gene — who she knows isn't real — ornament her stale days in the DC suburbs.
Now her father's cancer is back for a third time, and he's rejecting treatment. Denny's transgressive reaction is to flee. She begins to dismantle her life, constructing in its place the fantasy of perfect detachment. Unsure whether the impulse is monastic or suicidal, she rents a secluded cabin in the mountains. When she discovers life in the wilderness isn't the perfect detachment she was expecting — and that she isn't as alone as she'd hoped — Denny is forced to reckon with this failure while confronting a new life with its own set of pleasures and dangerous incursions.
Morbidly funny, subversive, and startling, Hard Mouth, the debut novel from 2018 NEA Creative Writing Fellow Amanda Goldblatt, unpacks what it means to live while others are dying.
"An astute, luminous examination of the complexities of love and grief, with never a careless word. Hard Mouth is a blazing feat of a book." R. O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries
"Goldblatt's spare and illuminating language suits her protagonist, who spends a good deal of time lonely inside her own head and experience." Booklist
"By turns creepy and thought-provoking, this is a resonant debut about love, independence, and mourning." Kirkus Reviews
"Propulsive and beguiling . . . This debut is a striking psychological portrait of despair." Publishers Weekly
About the Author
AMANDA GOLDBLATT is a writer and teacher living in Chicago. She is a 2018 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellow, and her fiction and essays have appeared in such journals as The Southern Review, Noon, Fence, Diagram, Hobart, and American Short Fiction. Hard Mouth is her debut novel.