Along the way, we are treated to Hopper’s keen-eyed cultural criticism: readings of cultural objects from Cheers to Bette Davis, the Women’s March to Shirley Jackson. All provide lenses through which she sees refracted the sustaining power of love outside the vortex of the couple ... Part of what Hopper does so artfully in her work is to disrupt the foregone narrative conclusions imposed on American women by 21st-century late capitalism ... There is an earthy everydayness, a colloquial comfort, to Hopper’s style ... The motley nature of the collection lends it the haphazard, uneven texture of real life ... At times, her sentences blaze with a kind of simple — resolutely uncluttered — wisdom that stops the reader in her tracks ... the most beautiful of her sentences mimic the deliberate, resigned cadence of biblical wisdom literature: proverb or psalm. That Hopper spent her evangelical youth steeped in the prose of the Bible, and went on as an adult to train as a minister at Yale Divinity School, comes as no surprise.
Throughout the course of her debut essay collection, Hard to Love, Briallen Hopper contemplates this thorny and capacious emotion from the position of someone whose love life defies traditional conceptions of the term ... You could read Hard to Love as a tender missive to all the relationships American culture has overlooked and deflated ... Hopper’s book is also an argument for a social shift. Friendship is a choice, one that is often adventurous in and of itself and should command the same privileges and respect as any other domestic arrangement ... Hard to Love’s greatest accomplishment is its insistence upon the equality of platonic and non-matrimonial arrangements, not merely because it urges us to recalibrate our perception of kinship—although this is important—but because it disputes the capitalist logic that the institution of marriage so often serves to buttress. Hopper harpoons the archaic, yet sticky notion that marriage is the gold-standard for mutual reliance[.]
Rousing ... Hopper is contributing to a growing body of recent writing (Text Me When You Get Home, The Friendship Cure) and pop culture storylines (Broad City, Insecure) that underscore the depth and significance of female friendships. But Hopper's book feels distinct from and, in some ways, more daring than these ... The strength of her culture essays vary.