The Secret Habit of Sorrow: Stories by Victoria Patterson

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Natalie still texts her dead sister. A one-way conversation. It’s a strange habit and no one knows.

Behind the beautiful cover of Victoria Patterson’s latest collection are stories that delve into the heavy territory of personal struggle, complicated relationships and human beings defects. In How to Lose, Natalie is dealing with the aftermath of abandoned failing fertility treatments and caring for her young nephew after the tragic  loss of her sister ‘the bad one’. A tender relationship is forming between aunt and nephew, as AJ trains in the hopes of no longer being a guppy in his swim class, or in life. Both swallowed up by grief. In Vandals Brian takes on simple tasks in his former home while his ex-wife and son are on vacation with her new husband and step-son. Walking through his former home is like a gut punch, realizing he is slowly being erased. Discarded by his son as well is a young girl named Madeline with whom he shares his inner turmoil, while working on his ex-wife’s pond. In Johnny Hitman childhood friends, one a born-again christian, the other a recovering (sometimes) drug addict cling to their strained relationship, is Vivian right to think her friend was damaged by an incident in their youth involving her dangerous half-brother? Or did she already have a clock set on self-destruction ticking within’ her. One of my favorites is Half-Truth, hindsight is a painful wisdom we gain too late. “Now that she’s in her twenties, Kelly better understands the consequences of being a teenage mom, knowing that this defines and shapes her life more than anything else.”  Motherhood as women imagined it when they were young is never quite the reality. Yearning still for his drug-addicted father, feeling her son is sometimes more the adult than her. In We Know Things Gwen seduces her mother’s boyfriend, later inciting the fury of his teenage son.

Throughout each story, people do things for reasons they themselves don’t always understand. They struggle with drugs, affairs, parenting and relationships. In Nobody’s Business a teenager cares for his dying mother, thinking about her status as third wife to his father, remembering her solid advice through his youth. Missing her as she is living, learning how to exist without her when she’s gone. It’s not often stories are written of teenage children shouldering the responsibility of caretaker to their parent. It’s written with aching tenderness. These raw stories feel almost too real, and perfect. Yes, add this to your reading pile!!!

Publication Date: July 17, 2018

Counterpoint Press

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