"Playfully, poetically unstable . . . What compels a woman to turn to the wilderness? What brings one, after a decade of caregiving, to exchange a terminal parent’s final vigil for the company of strangers? Goldblatt poses these questions with great assurance." —Lisa Locascio, The New York Times Book Review
Denny works nights as a tech in a labyrinthine facility outside of D.C., readying fruit flies for experimentation. Her life’s routine is
straightforward, limited. But when her father announces that he won’t be treating his recurrent, terminal cancer, she responds by quietly dismantling her life. She constructs in its place the fantasy of perfect detachment. Unsure whether her impulse is monastic or suicidal, she rents a secluded cabin in the mountains.
Without saying goodbye, she leaves her parents behind and enters a new, solitary world. It’s not without disruption: her blowsy trash bag of an
imaginary pal is still lingering. And then a house cat appears out of nowhere. And after a bad storm rips through the mountainside, someone else shows up, too. Her time in the wilderness isn’t the perfect detachment she was expecting. 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.
"The novel begins existential (think: Camus as an intersectional feminist), and ends with a gut punch that somehow manages a deeply felt sympathy for its characters." —Rebekah Frumkin, NYLON
Goldblatt's propulsive and beguiling debut tracks the story of a young woman searching for escape. Twenty-something Denny, short for Denise, has watched her father suffer on and off from cancer for 10 years and moves through her days in a fog of half-hope and half-grief, "working on the idea of being alive." She works a quiet job in a genetics lab and spends most nights alone in her studio apartment in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, socializing only with her high school best friend Ken and her imaginary friend, Gene, an amalgam of classic movie character clich s. But when her father's cancer returns, and Denny learns he won't be seeking treatment, Denny decides to take time off and rent a cabin deep in the woods, leaving no word with the people she leaves behind. Cut off from civilization, the unexpected becomes the everyday, and Denny's inner turmoil is matched by the brutality she must endure to survive, particularly after a storm downs a tree that tears open the roof and exposes her to the elements and even more so when she discovers that she might not be alone out there. Denny's story gains momentum early on, though the secondary characters too often come across as one-note, muddled shapes in the background. Still, this debut is a striking psychological portrait of despair.