Juggle and Hide, by Sharon van Ivan

Second paragraph of third chapter:

By the time I was born, she [Sharon’s great-grandmother] was already in her late 70s and devoted to daily Bible reading and listening to religious music on an old record player.

I got this after corresponding with the author about the art of her husband, Charles Pfahl. It’s the story of a grim childhood of neglect and occasional abuse with alcoholic parents in Ohio and Brooklyn, followed by a series of unsuccessful relationships and marriages, at the end of which she reunites with Pfahl two decades after splitting up with him, and they resolve to make a go of it again (and apparently did quite well). The cover illustration was painted by Pfahl for the book, but he died before it was published.

There’s a lot of personal insight here, and the various awful relatives and boyfriends / husbands are all portrayed with humanity – even though they behave terribly, they are not monsters but flawed human beings. There’s also a tremendous sense of place; Akron, Ohio has a completely different feel to Brooklyn, which is again different from Manhattan. And (always a plus) it’s quite short despite the brutal subject matter. You can get it here.